Malice by Heather Walter – REVIEW

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.

Utter nonsense.

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

I am the villain.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Del Rey.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“I am reviled and despised for the very reasons I’m sought out. A figure of dark, evil magic. A member of a race all but stamped out. A Vila. A monster.”

I’m always here for a fairytale retelling so when I heard that Malice was a sapphic Sleeping Beauty retelling I had to request a proof copy. It definitely didn’t disappoint thanks to the fresh twists of the plot and beautiful characterisation supported by wonderfully detailed world-building and evocative prose.

Set within the Kingdom of Briar, bordering the Fae courts of Etheria, the story is told from the first-person point of view of Alyce, the Dark Grace. Alyce was abandoned as a baby and raised within Ivy House, reviled by almost everyone she meets thanks to her Vila heritage. Vilas are believed to be evil and a threat that was thought to have been stamped out by Briar and Etheria. The constant ostracism, cruel taunts and dehumanisation of Alyce leaves the reader asking how long someone can be treated as a monster before they become one?

“Magic is everywhere…Even humans carry a spark of it in their fragile, fickle souls. All you need to do is reach out and find it.”

Princess Aurora is cursed to die by her 21st birthday unless she kisses her true love. Disney used to make a lot of the princesses very bland but that’s definitely not the case here. Aurora is angry, determined and intelligent, and I loved her growing relationship with Alyce. The plot quickens in pace during the second half, building to a climax that changes everything and leaves the reader desperate for the sequel.

“I am Vila. My power will never Fade. And you’re about to feel every bit of it come down upon your heads.”

I’m a big fan of training sequences so I appreciated the sub-plot of a long-forgotten prisoner in an abandoned tower who promises to train Alyce in her Vila magic. There was a sense of inevitability about this character and his motivations but it was no less satisfying for that. Malice is the Sleeping Beauty retelling we deserve, with a morally ambiguous main character who is sure to delight readers. 

(Goodreads | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Forbidden Planet)

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