Malice by Heather Walter
Publishing Info: eARC from Del Ray
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.
Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.
You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.
Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.
Until I met her.
Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.
But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.
Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
I am the villain.
Thank you so much to Del Ray and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The word ‘retelling’ is sure to get me interested in a book, and when I saw Malice was a Sapphic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villain, I just knew I had to read it. Malice includes many key elements of Sleeping Beauty (as well as a dash of other fairy tales, like Cinderalla), but weaves these into a new world and story in a refreshing way.
From the start, I really enjoyed the world building, and how the society of Briar is depicted. The upper classes are selfish and vain, obsessed with beauty and luxury, and how they can use the Graces to obtain those things. In return for their services, Graces receive payment and invitations to parties, but then when their magic Fades, they also fade out of the spotlight. Graces have little control over their lives due to the Grace Laws, and although their lives seem glamorous on the outside, there is an insidious undercurrent to the way this society functions. Good and evil isn’t so simple here, as almost every character falls somewhere in between.
Heather Walter did an amazing job of showing Alyce’s perspective and making me sympathise with her character. The book really focuses on her journey, and seeing how her character evolved during the book is what really kept me hooked. Alyce is known as the Dark Grace and has been mistreated her whole life because her magical blood runs green instead of gold. People avoid her in the street and the other Graces she lives with call her names. Little things, like the way people react to her, how she is given a silver plate instead of a gold one at a dinner party, all these details show how Alyce is shunned by Briar’s society. And yet they come to her Lair for her dark elixirs, happy to use her magic for their own purposes, while despising and villainising her at the same time.
In some ways, the focus is more on Alyce’s personal development than on the romance, but I did enjoy seeing Alyce and Aurora’s feelings slowly grow for each other. Despite seemingly being opposites, Alyce and Aurora have a lot in common, both feeling trapped by their situations. Aurora, as the future queen (if she can survive the curse placed on her family), wants to make Briar a better place, and I admired her determination and passion for her vision.
Overall, Malice is an excellent retelling. I love a good villain origin story, and this one delivers. Although there were some twists, I found most of the events a little predictable. I am, however, intrigued to see what turn the story takes in the sequel, as there is a lot of potential for some unexpected twists. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who loves hero/villain romance, morally grey characters and intriguing magic systems.