Damsel by Evelyn Skye – ARC Review!

A price must be paid.

Elodie never dreamed of a lavish palace or a handsome prince. Growing up in the famine-stricken realm of Inophe, her deepest wish was to help her people survive each winter. So when a representative from a rich, reclusive kingdom offers her family enough wealth to save Inophe in exchange for Elodie’s hand in marriage, she accepts without hesitation. Swept away to the glistening kingdom of Aurea, Elodie is quickly taken in by the beauty of the realm—and of her betrothed, Prince Henry.

But as Elodie undertakes the rituals to become an Aurean princess, doubts prick at her mind as cracks in the kingdom’s perfect veneer begin to show: A young woman who appears and vanishes from the castle tower. A parade of torches weaving through the mountains. Markings left behind in a mysterious “V.” Too late, she discovers that Aurea’s prosperity has been purchased at a heavy cost—each harvest season, the kingdom sacrifices its princesses to a hungry dragon. And Elodie is the next sacrifice.

This ancient arrangement has persisted for centuries, leading hundreds of women to their deaths. But the women who came before Elodie did not go quietly. Their blood pulses with power and memory, and their experiences hold the key to Elodie’s survival. Forced to fight for her life, this damsel must use her wits to defeat a dragon, uncover Aurea’s past, and save not only herself, but the future of her new kingdom as well.

I buddy read this with Yesha over at Books Teacup & Reviews, and you can’t check out her review here.

One thing that screams out about this book is that it’s written to be a film. It’s so blatantly obvious when reading, the more telling than showing, the lack of emotive response to some scenes and the difference between the tone of the scenes and the tone of the writing. I do think that it will translate well to film, but it reads almost like a script in parts, overly descriptive of characters actions rather than their internal thoughts and it’s for this reason that I didn’t end up loving it.

Elodie was a good character. She’s your stereotypical big sister/oldest child, willing to take on the responsibilities left to her to ensure her people’s survival, but she certainly didn’t sign up to be sacrificed to a Dragon. She reads as a lot older at the start of the book, but as the story progresses, and with it the danger level, we start to realise that she is simply a young woman in way over her head. Her reactions seemed a little ott in parts, but again, I think this would come across much better on film than it did in the book. Alongside Elodie we get the POV’s from other characters, namely her younger sister Floria, and Victoria the first Princess to be sacrificed to the Dragon. You can tell this story is meant to have a feminist angle, and I suppose it does with all the MC’s being women, but it just lacked any emotional draw for me, so even at the end with the big climax I found myself unbothered by the events.

I did enjoy the relationship between Elodie and Floria. Two girls who lost their mother at an early age and took to relying on one another. They’re both feisty in their own ways and unwilling to go down without a fight, even in the direst of circumstances. But the love they feel for each other leaps off the page, and their scenes together were by far my favourite of the book. I also enjoyed Elodie’s interactions, through memory, with the past Princesses who had been sacrificed. This was the feminist element I enjoyed, allowing her to learn about the safe passages in the Dragons cave, as well as being able to tell the stories of those that went before her.

The magic system was…undeveloped to say the least. Through touching the previous sacrifices blood, Elodie is able to access their memories, something that keeps her safe and helps with her feeling of solitude in the Dragon’s lair. But why does this happen? Why does it seemingly only happen to women? Why Elodie, but not her sister, or stepmother? We don’t really get any answers, just a base understanding that it happens, and I would have enjoyed a little more depth. The writing style and tone never really fit with the tone of the story or scenes, there were some pretty descriptive and danger filled scenes, but Skye’s writing style was just too light to get the atmosphere across, so some of these scenes read almost humorous, when that was not at all what was being portrayed in the scene.

All in all, this wasn’t a book I loved, but I do think that the story will make a great transition to film, and I will definitely be watching it when it comes out on Netflix. It just read too much like a script for me, devoid of emotion and far too much telling what the characters were doing, without getting an insight into them as people making it hard to connect to them.


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