“The princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress.”
Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who cursed a line of princesses to die, and 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 actually cares about what happens to our princesses. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her.
Princess Aurora. The last heir to the throne. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. 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 known how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I –
I am the villain.
Length: 400 pages (kindle edition)
Publisher: Cornerstone Digital
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinions.
I love the tagline for Malice: the princess isn’t supposed to fall for the evil sorceress. I think it’s the best tagline I’ve ever heard for a book.
Malice is Sleeping Beauty reimagined, except instead of following the princess, we follow the woman who will become the evil sorceress. Alyce’s mother abandoned her as a child. So Alyce was raised in a house of Graces (magical girls touched with the blood of the fae), and expected to earn money for the woman who runs the house, to increase the house’s reputation and standing: all whilst being ridiculed and hated by those around her.
This book is a much-needed exploration of the reasons some people do bad things. The fairytales present simplistic villains, evil (usually) women who are just evil because that’s what they are. Malice explores the why, and I really like that. No one is born evil (I don’t think), it’s the way the world treats a person that makes them that way. And in this book, it’s easy to see why Alyce feels the way she does.
The setting is Briar, a kingdom on the borderlands between the land of the fae, and the human world. Certain female children are born with the blood of the fae running through their veins. The crown takes them, and makes them serve the rich. Those in charge then force them to make their wealthy patrons more beautiful, correct undesirable physical traits, and improve their learning, etc. Different Graces have different abilities. It reminds me a little of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton in that sense.
Alyce is different, she is a Dark Grace. Which means her blood runs green and her magic comes from the near-extinct Vila, the enemy of the fae. So this is where the hatred and fear of her comes from. I really like how Heather Walter built the world and fleshed it out from what we know of in the fairytale. It feels like a full world, though not overly complicated, which I liked. Walter included just enough of the worldbuilding for the story to work, and that’s how it should be.
We see the story through Alyce’s eyes, as the story is written in first person point of view. I understood her motivations, and I did empathise with her, but it felt like there was a depth to her character missing. It feels like there was a lack of sensory descriptions: I wanted to feel the earth beneath her feet, but I couldn’t. It was like gliding over the surface of someone’s thoughts and actions, I didn’t quite feel really inside of her mind. So this meant that I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in the story as I could have. I wanted to root for the relationship in this so much, and I did smile when certain things happened, but I never felt that burning need for things to work out for them. Which was a shame.
Thematically, Malice touches on exploitation, particularly of women. So in some ways, the way the crown exploits the Graces mirrors the way men have controlled and exploited women’s reproductive rights. The Graces have no choice but to use their power, ‘for the good of everyone’, much as women have historically had no choice but to bear children: it is seen as their societal duty. I liked this thematic element to it. It added a depth to the story which I really love to see in any book, but particularly fantasy.
Overall, Malice is a well-told, interesting, needed story. I love the darkness in Alyce’s character, the origin story she represents, and the way Heather Walter builds the world. So I definitely intend to pick up the next book in this series.