by Heather Walter
Publication: April 13, 2021
**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Malice is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora is still Princess Aurora but she is more than just a girl destined to be pricked by a needle. Aurora wants to be become Queen and has ambitious plans for her future reign. Until then, she is forced to keep searching for true love’s kiss to break the curse. The resident villain, on the other hand, isn’t so much a villain. Alyce is forced to work as a Grace. In Briar, Grace are blessed by fae with abilities such as wisdom or making people beautiful but she is different. Known as the Dark Grace, people fear Alyce yet they use her services for elixirs and hexes to put worts onto a face or ensure a competitor fails. All Alcye has ever wanted is to be accepted, but no one seems able to do that.
The book centers on Alyce’s development and her growth. Prominent in the story is her inability to trust, which is a double-edged sword. She wants to trust people, but she also second guesses the motives of everyone around her, even those she could trust. Of course, her suspicions are warranted because she’s always been forced to exist on the outskirts of society, which also contributes to low self-esteem and self-loathing.
While the story excels with characterization, the plot is on the slow side. Nothing much happens for pages except Alyce trying to figure out who she is and the fighting among the Grace. Every so often, I wondered when something might actually happen to push the story forward. Despite this, I was undeterred from finishing the book because I enjoyed Walter’s writing.
Walter takes the fairy tale and gives depth to the world and the characters inhabiting it. The story is rich in detail, especially in its world building. The bulk of information from the history of Briar to the magical system is largely concentrated at the beginning of the novel, feeling very much at times like an information dump, but it’s so fascinating that I didn’t mind. I’m looking forward to learning more about the lands and the inhabitants, both past and present, in the next book.
Overall, the book is
maleficent magnificent. I found myself sympathizing with Alyce, although I was also often frustrated with her decisions. Fans of fairy tale retellings, especially those that enjoy origin stories, will enjoy reading Malice, but it may not be for those who like a faster paced novel. If readers can overcome the pacing, the ending will certainly be rewarding–it was so good.