Evelyn Skye crafts a darkly spellbinding reinvention of YA fantasy in the novel version of Netflix’s Damsel

Read the book before watching the movie, or vice versa!

Damsel movie tie-in cover - Cr: Random House Worlds
Damsel movie tie-in cover - Cr: Random House Worlds /

Damsel is a young adult fantasy novel by Evelyn Skye and it shares DNA with Netflix's upcoming original movie starring Millie Bobby Brown, releasing globally on Friday, March 8, 2024. Skye's novel is unique in that it's not a standard case of a book being adapted for the screen, rather, Skye worked with Damsel screenwriter Dan Mazeau to create a groundbreaking collaboration. She was able to read an early draft of the screenplay and then write her own version of the story, with the novel releasing in November 2023.

Skye is no stranger to the world of fiction, having written the popular YA fantasy series The Crown's Game and the contemporary romantasy novel The Hundred Lives of Juliet. Her next book is another romance titled One Year Ago in Spain and is slated for a July 2024 release.

Even though Damsel released last year, I'm sure many people will be introduced to the book through the movie. And Skye previously teased to The Hollywood Reporter that the movie will be a “treasure hunt for true fans” as they search for differences between the two versions.

Damsel tells the story of a headstrong and resourceful young woman named Elodie who is intent on doing whatever it takes to help the people of Inophe, her homeland that has been devastated by famine and poverty. When her father reveals that he has set up an arranged marriage for her with the prince of the wealthy kingdom of Aurea, Elodie agrees in the hopes this newfound alliance will bring plentiful resources to Inophe. But after her wedding night to the charming Prince Henry, Elodie is horrified to discover Aurea is hiding a centuries-long tradition that involves sacrificing princesses to a dragon as part of a magical bargain made with the creature.

Damsel demands to be read in one sitting

I started reading Damsel at around 11 p.m. one night and could not put it down until I was finished. Skye had me riveted from the opening pages. What I appreciated about the book is the detailed world-building and its subversion of classic YA fantasy tropes. Damsel is a story anchored by a smart heroine who uses her knack for creating maps to help her stay alive while face-to-face with a legendary beast. It highlights sisterhood and feminism over romance and defies falling into some of the common pitfalls in this genre, crafting a mature and twisting tale of survival and heroism—finding the strength to defy the odds.

Skye expertly describes the realms of Aurea and Inophe in a way that makes them leap off the page, yet just as deftly pivots to grit and claustrophobia during the novel, (and Elodie's, darkest chapters. I found myself breathless for pages at a time, hoping and rooting for her chances to make it out alive and seek her revenge. I also appreciated that Skye didn't shy away from the horrors inflicted upon the characters by the realm of Aurea. The character have dimension and are multifaceted, they aren't simple one-note archetypes. I appreciated the complexity of both its heroes and its villains.

For fans of Chloe Gong, author of These Violent Delights and Immortal Longings, you might appreciate her two cents on this particular book.

"With deft prose and intricate invention, Damsel brings the perfect spin to a fantasy fairy tale"

Chloe Gong

You can purchase your copy of Damsel now wherever books are sold and the movie releases on Netflix on Friday, March 8, 2024.

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