*A 2019 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book*
A dark, twisted, unforgettable fairy tale from Elana K. Arnold, author of the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of
The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: When the king dies, his son the prince must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon or what horrors she faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome young man, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny of sitting on a throne beside him. It’s all like a dream, like something from a fairy tale.
As Ama follows Emory to the kingdom of Harding, however, she discovers that not all is as it seems. There is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows, and the greatest threats may not be behind her, but around her, now, and closing in.
This subversion of fairy tale tropes begins with familiar elements: a prince rescues a damsel from a dragon to make her his bride and prove his worth to become king, as happens with every generation in the kingdom of Harding ("I saved you," he repeats). But the damsel, whom he names Ama, has no memory of her past, her family, or her time with the dragon. And the more time she spends around her husband-to-be, learning the ways of his culture and her intended role, the more uncomfortable she becomes. King Emory is cold, strict, sometimes violent, swift to exert his authority, and eager to have sex with Ama whether she is interested or not. As Ama struggles to unlock her memories and find her own destiny, she discovers the dark side of the kingdom's traditions. With haunting prose and lush descriptions, Arnold (What Girls Are Made Of) weaves a terrifying tale that explores contemporary conversations about rape culture, misogyny, male entitlement, female agency, and the need for consent. The message is as timely as it is vital, but frank discussions of self-harm, physical and emotional abuse, and descriptions of sexual violence may not be appropriate for readers at the younger end of the stated range. Ages 14 up.