Malice by Heather Walter

My Rating: 4 stars

Many thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the ARC. This book is being released today, April 13 2021!

What if Sleeping Beauty’s true love was the evil fairy? That’s the concept driving Malice. Briar is a kingdom that relies on Graces, women who can create magic elixirs with their golden Fae blood. Our narrator, Alyce, is called the Dark Grace; she is part Vila, and her green blood results in curses rather than blessings. She has been branded a monster and ostracized since birth, and she longs to be free instead of creating elixirs for the same people who ridicule her. Enter Aurora: the crown princess of Briar who is fated to die on her twenty-first birthday unless she is kissed by her true love. Together, the two set out to find a way to break the curse without one of the suitors being constantly thrown at the princess. I am a simple woman. I see LGBT+ representation in a fairy tale retelling, I pick it up. The romance between Alyce and Aurora did not disappoint; slow burn, pining, all those good things. It’s wonderful and the exact thing we need to see more of in the genre.

I also really enjoyed Alyce’s character arc. This is ultimately a villain origin story, which I thought was really fun. We need more of those. Her anger and resentment is so real and relatable. She fights so hard against being the monster everyone sees her as, and I found it heartbreaking whenever her good intentions get twisted. But at the same time, I loved seeing her slowly fall into the villain role. I ended up really liking the way Walter treats morality. Early on it seems as if it will be very black and white with a villain who is almost cartoonishly evil. However, who the true villain is ends up being far more complicated. Seemingly good characters do horrible things thinking they are right and just. In the end, there really are no “good guys.” The final few chapters are the culmination of this, and they are absolutely amazing.

Walter has built a truly interesting fantasy world. The magic system is particularly fascinating. I loved the concept of the Graces, and Walter does a great job showing how their magic works. I also really appreciated that we see Alyce practice her Vila and Shifter magic constantly. She puts in a lot of time and effort to learn these skills, and she struggles at times. It’s so refreshing to see a main character actually learning a skill instead of just being perfect at it the first time. The one issue I did have is that most of the world building is done through info dumping. It slows the pace of the book, especially at the beginning, and bogs down some parts of the narration. However, this is Walter’s first book, and she’s created such a great world that it didn’t bother me too much.

Overall, Malice is a dark and entrancing “Sleeping Beauty” retelling that brings some great new concepts to the tale as well as a slow burn wlw romance. I can’t wait for the sequel!

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