From Elana K. Arnold, author of the raw and real National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, comes timely new novel Damsel, hitting shelves next October. Where What Girls Are Made Of explored the costs of living inside a female form, Damsel operates as a companion of sorts, examining what it is to be female in a man’s world. Each book came out of a different chapter in Arnold’s life—and today we can exclusively reveal Damsel‘s haunting, luminous cover, as well as the author’s story on why she felt compelled to write it.
My novel What Girls Are Made Of examines the things girls do to themselves and to each other, and the things girls have done to them. Nina struggles with what to do with the fabric of her past choices (and the past choices others have made for her as well). It’s a book about what it can be like to exist in a female body. It’s a book born of complicated feelings about shame, desire, and fear.
It was a painful book to write; many people tell me it’s a painful book to read. But something happened to me during the years it took me to write What Girls Are Made Of: I named my shame and my fear. I picked through them. And, in many ways, I healed from them.
That’s art, I think—that power to be transformed, as the writer or the reader, by the text. And so, when I began to unravel the book that grew into Damsel, I was a different writer. I wasn’t shameful and afraid.
I was angry.
Many of us are angry, and for good reasons. But anger without release can eat you up as surely as shame and fear. I put my anger into this book, and I surprised myself with what my anger and I created.
Damsel is about waking up female in a man’s world. It’s about power, and abuses of power by powerful men. It’s about secrets.
I can see how Damsel is an evolution of my earlier work; like one sister to another, there are similarities. But Damsel is its own beast, a singular creation, and a work of which I am singularly proud.
Pride, and anger, and action. Those are the ingredients to this book.
The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince who will be king comes of age, he 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 prince, 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 are not behind her, but around her, and closing in.
Elana K. Arnold, author of the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, has written an unforgettable fairy tale of power, oppression, and choice.