Author: Heather Walter
Genre: Fantasy Retelling Romance
Page Count: 470
Published by: Del Rey Books
Date Published: April 13, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org
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.
Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I— I am the villain.
I thoroughly enjoyed this smart retelling and was happy it wasn’t a retelling retelling, where the plot plays out identically to all that has come before it with slight, minuscule changes. Rather, this fantastic, feminist, character driven fantasy gives little nods to the classic story.
Malice spends a good deal of time building a back story – which I was looking for at the time, but I could see the argument for pacing issues here – the development of the magical system, the organization of the Briar Roses, and the inner turmoil of Alyce and her different, dark magic were all elements I loved, but I could have done with less of the political maneuverings and the overdrawn, overwrote historical geography lessons of the region that muddled the plot. Overall this feminist fairytale was solidly entertaining, with lively characters, an interesting, well drawn world, a well wrote unlikely lovers romance, and a viciously delicious ending. A really impressive debut.
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