Book Review: Malice (ARC)

Expected publication: April 13th 2021

Author: Heather Walter

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.

Utter nonsense.

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.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain. 

Malice is a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty with dashes of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella. I love tales that are told from the perspective of the perceived villains and especially ones that are done well. As a general word of caution, the ending to this novel does not wrap everything up nicely and the ending teeters between being both a cliffhanger and not. There is a possible sequel in the works, as stated by the author, but nothing is set in stone (title, release date, etc.). It can still be read as a standalone as it is very well-written and makes me very curious about the other material this author can come up with! If you would like an extra layer to your story experience, the author has a Spotify playlist inspired by the novel. I read this book over two days and listened to the songs between my reading sessions.

Alyce is known as the Dark Grace and is nicknamed Malyce. She lives in one of the Grace houses that serve the kingdom. A Grace is essentially a specialized fairy, such as beauty or wisdom, which can create elixirs using their blood that help their patrons. It is a fascinating take on magic and the entire system made me want to learn more. Alyce is not a typical Grace as she is half Vila (another type of magical being), but she is being treated as a Grace in duty. She believes she is a villain because society has labeled her as one until one day she discovers that it might be more complicated. She is an amazingly well-written morally grey character that made some questionable choices, but you find yourself having sympathy for her.

She meets Princess Aurora after the Graces are invited to the Palace. There is a curse on Aurora put on her since birth that needs to be broken before her 21st birthday. I loved Aurora as she was logical in her decisions as she knows the limitations of her curse, but still wants to dream about breaking it herself and creating a better world when she becomes the ruler. Aurora and Alyce become friends where they find ways to meet and get to know the other. They each accept the other for who they are and also are fascinated to learn more about each other. Their relationship grows very naturally as they are not together all the time and it fit the situation of the story where Aurora lives at the Palace and Alyce lives at Lavender House (a Grace location). In this setting, it is not a simple process to visit the other and the author did a great job to portray all the obstacles the two went through just to talk to each other.  

The story focuses on both Aurora and Alyce’s journeys of self-discovery as Alyce wants to learn more about whom she is and Aurora wants to break her curse. I liked how each of them has their own goal, but they also intertwine so they can work together. There are elements that are slowly introduced to tie this story into the Sleeping Beauty story that the reader is familiar with and I liked how the two come together. There are fascinating side characters, such as, Laurel, Marigold, Rose, Kal, and even Alyce’s kestrel, Callow, all featured in the story. They each fit their roles well as the reader can somewhat predict pieces about them, but you never fully know everything until the story dictates the proper moment. It kept me very interested as a reader.

The beginning is slower as the world and characters are set up, but the plot moves at a decent pace and picks up to a fantastic climax. The political and magical elements were all well-written and the world-building was very well-done. The story is more young adult than adult, so it is accessible to a wider audience. As an adult, I found this a very enjoyable read that was both easy to read and captivating as it is a fascinating take on a classic tale. I really hope that the sequel does get created and I can get my hands on it as soon as possible because I want to read as much as I can about the world and characters that Heather Walter created. An overall entertaining escape read, especially for fans of fairy tales.

**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Del Rey Publishing, for a review copy of this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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