Damsel by Evelyn Skye – Review

A damsel in distress takes on the dragon herself in this epic twist on classic fantasy—a groundbreaking collaboration between New York Times bestselling author Evelyn Skye and the team behind the upcoming Netflix film Damsel, starring Millie Bobby Brown.

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.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House for the advanced copy of Evelyn Skye’s fun twist on the damsel in distress trope; which is where I assume the name itself came from! I was so excited to dive into Elodie’s world– full of other such literary staples– the wicked stepmother, the dragon to slay, etc. However, it was clear early on that this tale was not one of a Disney princess. Instead, we find a pair of sisters who wind up being the ‘love story’ (though familial it may be) in a cold and judgmental world.

Elodie is the daughter of a duke in a land that has fallen into famine and drought. This Lady cares so much about the people her father presides over, and goes above and beyond for them time and time again. Though she is sheltered in her castle, that does not stop tragedy from having befallen her. She and her sister, Floria, have been neglected by their remaining parent after their mother died, and have been each other’s rocks ever since. The surprise of a lifetime comes when Elodie is told that she has been betrothed to a prince in another kingdom… one that is flourishing and resplendent. Nothing is as it seems, though, and Elodie quickly realizes she is next in a long line of sacrifices to keep a dragon happy.

The character development here is fantastic. We see Elodie as she goes from naive girl to scrappy fighter; using the strength and memories of the women who came before her to grow and change into the woman who can save herself. The magic system is also easy to grasp and unique– just as distinctive as the language of the dragon itself. I loved seeing the author really play in the space and make this book something to remember. I am very excited for the film version, and to see how it translates. I feel like readers and watchers alike will relate to Elodie and her struggle in a world that looks down on her for her gender.

5/5 stars


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