Book Review | Malice

Title: Malice

Author: Heather Walter

Publisher: Del Rey

Published: 13 April 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh my word!! Not only was this book such an amazing retelling of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, but the world building, the characters, and the LGBTQ+ representation was wonderful as well. I’m just completely blown away by how much this book exceeded my expectations.

In the kingdom of Briar, Graces live to dole out charms and elixirs to the wealthy and nobles of the land, while the common people strain to feed themselves day to day. It’s a land of greed and materialism. Long ago, before the Graces existed, the humans kept trying to obtain the Fae’s gifts, their power and magic. It wasn’t until Leythana came and retrieved Oryn’s crown that the Fae’s made a pact with humans, but only with Leythana’s line. The Vila, dark Fae’s for lack of a better term, cursed Leythana’s line. Of course, the Fae slightly mitigated the curse that the Vila cast on Leythanan’s line. Each daughter would have 21 years to find true love or die. Alyce doesn’t think much of this. She’s the only surviving Vila left forced into service by the Briar King and the ambassador of the Fae, Endliwild. Yet, by a twist of fate Alyce and Aurora, the last descendant of Leythana meet, and create a pact to try to break the curse without having Aurora kiss any other prince. Soon Alyce begins to fall in love. But it can never be that easy, can it? Because Aurora is the princess….and Alyce, Alyce is the villain.

I’m going to break this review down into 3 main categories that I want to talk about, to make it easier to follow: world-building, characters, and themes.

World Building:

Wow! One of the most impressive parts of Walter’s book is that it wasn’t a strict retelling of the Sleeping Beauty Maleficent storyline. IN actuality, the name Maleficent is not actually named in the book. The closest the author comes to it is the cruel nickname that one of Alyce’s “sisters” (one of the other Graces) bestows on her “Malyce.” Walter truly did take the Sleeping Beauty story and created her own version, while still remaining loyal to the themes and ideas we know. There is still the spindle that curses Aurora at the end. There is still the ostracization of Alyce (Maleficent) in the book. Of course, in the story we actually know the princess and the fae do not fall in love. Disney’s live-action Sleeping Beauty did give us a new version as well by showing the love a mother has for her daughter. In this one, we see the romantic love bloom between Alyce and Aurora.

The world-building for the rest was so well-detailed and expansive. The storyline of the war between the Fae and Vila that started everything and would eventually lead to Alyce’s downfall. How Briar is ruled by Queens who over the years gave more and more of their power over to their husbands, becoming nothing more than figureheads. The Grace system that was put into place when the Fae and Humans created their alliance. The Fae give certain humans their power, in turn they are able to create elixirs and potions for patrons. Of course, over the years this system too has become corrupted and twisted. As I was reading, I could definitely see that great time and effort was taken to fully flesh out the world that Walter built.

Characters:

I love, love, love Alyce!! I do. I saw so much of myself in Alyce, from the way she is treated by society to her anger and rage by the end. There are many times when I just want to burn it all down because they do not deserve anything. Alyce was such a complicated and wonderful character. There were many characters throughout the story who were complicated and again, it shows the strength of Walter’s writing that none of these characters were flat (except maybe the King but eh, you can’t win them all). With Aurora, she’s so young and naïve in her viewpoint of how to rule and what will happen when she takes the crown. Mariel is someone who deeply loves her daughter but when I was reading the parts with her in it, you can feel frustration leaking off of her in waves. It felt like she didn’t even know how she got to this point of being married to a man who broke her curse one day and took all of her power now. Laurel the only Grace who was kind to Alyce had layers to her as well, and definitely has me considering some ethical conversations about right, wrong, and the greater good. Even the Graces you don’t like, Rose and Marigold, are more than what they seem through trying so hard to hold on to this fleeting power because it’s all that matters.

These characters were not lovable at all times nor were they supposed to be because people aren’t lovable at all times. They’re complicated and ugly and gray and so, so beautiful.

Themes:

The last part to bring up is themes which I did start touching on in the characters section. There are many themes a reader can pick out of this book. From the idea of good vs. evil, to ostracization and otherness, to the question of is it okay to hurt the one to save the many. There is no shortage of themes in this book to choose from. I particularly want to focus on the ostracization of the other because that was obviously a big one that the author focused on.

As someone who lives in a world that ostracizes people who are not white, straight, cis-gendered, I completely felt much of the pain that Alyce felt throughout the book. The horror inflicted on me was not nearly to the extent that Alyce had to go through as a child, but the psychological and emotional pain is still there and one I struggle with. It’s also telling how much Alyce does grow throughout the book, how much she changes and reconsiders her viewpoints once Aurora comes into her life.

Before Aurora, Alyce was ready to cast Briar away. To leave the place that had tortured her and never look back. But then Aurora changes it all. Call it love or foolishness but Alyce does see that burning everything to the ground out of vengeance does not always solve our problems. She just needed one person, someone, anyone to truly see her. Not as Vila or a monster or mongrel or abomination or any of the cruel words they threw at her her whole life. She just wanted someone to see Alyce, just Alyce and love her anyway. Yet, even in the end they couldn’t do that. They couldn’t listen to what really happened and take her word for it. Alyce is the monster. That’s what they’ve been told. That’s what they believe, so that’s what she becomes, because what’s the point anymore. They’re not going to change their minds, so she might as well burn it to the ground.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | The Lightning Thief

Title: The Lightning Thief

Author: Rick Riordan

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books

Published: 1 March 2006

Pages: 377

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh, Camp Half-Blood, how I have missed you! I decided at the beginning of the year that I wanted to re-read the Percy Jackson series, and to then go on and read the other series from Rick Riordan. I absolutely forgot how much I love this book!

Percy Jackson is a good kid or well he tries to be. He can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. Lately, Percy being away at boarding school is only getting worse. Percy could’ve sworn that his algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him, but the other teachers and students and even his best friend all say that that algebra teacher never existed.

Percy does manage to finish out the school year and head back home to his mom and his step-dad Smelly Gabe. Percy’s mom decides they need a vacation, just Percy and his mom, no Gabe. But while there, Percy’s mom knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe: Camp Half-Blood.

Yet, while they try to get there a Minotaur chases them and Percy’s mom sacrifices herself. Once at Camp Half-Blood Percy starts realizing that a lot of the things that got him into trouble at school was due to his demigod genes. Soon, he actually beings to belong someplace, but then his dad, Poseidon (one of the Big three Gods) claims Percy as his son, which means now he’s alone again at Camp Half-Blood.

Then a quest comes up for Percy. And he is joined by his best friend from school, a satyr, Grover, and another demigod daughter of Athena, Annabeth. They set out on a quest to find Zeus’s lightning bolt that leads them across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood, which #accurate) to prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

I remember reading this book the first time when I was in middle school (I’m pretty sure it was in 7th grade but it may have been 8th grade) and being completely pulled into the world. The story was fascinating, especially as someone who was already into Greek mythology and finding the twists to the myths I already knew so much fun.

Re-reading it as an adult did change some aspects, as well as make me think of all the twists that were going to come up in the end in different ways (I’m looking at you, Luke). But the feelings that came up when I first read it as a young child was still present as an adult, and that is what stands the test of time.

Also, it was great reading a book by an author who is NOT a TERF and one who recognizes intersectionality, supports Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ peoples, and diversity in general and actually has diversity in his later books because he learns. So, read Rick Riordan if you want the feelings that Harry Potter used to give you (I haven’t been able to read or watch Harry Potter since last summer, as it just gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach).

Happy Reading Darlings!

P.S. This was Rick Riordan’s response after George Floyd’s murder (click here).

#FridayFives | Series I Never Finished

I started #FridayFavorites back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to #FridayFives instead to have more room for topics. If anyone wants to join me, the list for future topics can be found here.

Topics today is on series I never finished for one reason or another.

I think I stopped reading after Revelations or maybe The Van Alen Legacy. The story was so much more drama than was realistic, and I was getting tired of always having a cliff hanger at the end of each book.

Goodreads

I read the first one in a couple of days, and then the second one took me ages to get through. The third one I started and stopped once Claire and Jamie were reunited. Basically, I was just bored with the series. I’m not sure if I’ll come back to it.

Goodreads

I may actually come back to this series. The first one was great! But again, the second novel I just couldn’t get into.

Goodreads

I did not like the first one and didn’t think it was worth reading the rest of the series.

Goodreads

I finished the second book right before I started grad school. The third one came out while I was in grad school (for English lit), and I wasn’t really in the mood to read for fun.

Goodreads

Happy Reading Lovelies!

#FridayFavorites | Fantasy Books (That are not Harry Potter)

I started #FridayFavorites back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. If anyone wants to join me, the list for future topics can be found here.

Today’s topic are fantasy books that are not Harry Potter.

Victorian England, demons, magic, and a mysterious girl. The Infernal Devices is probably my favorite series of Clare’s books. I feel such kinship with Tessa. Will and Jem are not only adorable but truly show non-toxic masculinity. Also, I’m obsessed with books set in Victorian England!

I cannot fully describe in words how amazing this book is (I haven’t read the second one, I know I really need to). I just love how it is a fantasy series with Nigerian elements and stars non-white characters!

Such an amazing series and a great way to get kids into mythology. I also love how in each book/series Rick Riordan becomes not only a better writer but a better person by including non-white and LGBTQ characters. The origin of Percy Jackson is amazing as well, as Riordan created the series for his son who has dyslexia and ADHD.

I know vampires have been done and overdone, but I truly enjoyed this one from Renee Ahdieh. I especially love the fact that it’s set in New Orleans!

I mean I couldn’t not include A Song of Ice and Fire (that is the official name of the series). I mean dragons, zombies, political intrigue, there’s something for everyone in this series.

Happy Reading, Lovelies!

eARC Review | The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass

Title: The Girl of Hawthorne and Glass

Author: Adan Jerreat-Poole

Publisher: Dundurn

Publication Date: 6 October 2020

Quote: “[Eli] understood that creators have strings embedded in our hearts” (17).

Eli is an assassin. A made assassin. She was made by a witch to be nothing more than a tool to kill ghosts in the human world. But something goes wrong and she’s brought into a group of people who know about her world. Eli along with two humans, Cam and Tav, go back to her world to steel the heart of the coven. But is everything as it seems? Or are there more sinister motives afoot?

I received an advanced copy of this book from Edelweiss+ and Dundurn in exchange for an honest review.


To start off, I really loved the diversity in this book. The main character is queer, there’s a secondary gay characters, and a black non–binary character. Which I truly loved, so more please.

I really wanted to like this book. I mean the summary sounds amazing: assassins, witches, queer characters. What’s not to like?

Well, quite a bit. Unfortunately. As I stated above, I truly wanted to like this book, and I do love, love, love the LGBTQ+ and black representation. Yet, the story just fell flat for me.

First, the world building. I am a sucker for anything that has witches. Seriously, I am willing to read anything that has witches in it. In this story, Eli comes from the City of Eyes. The City of Eyes is run by the witches coven….maybe. There’s also the Labyrinth, which is run by a young girl, Clytemnestra, who reminded me of one of these Angels…

(Ten points to Ravenclaw for anyone who knows this reference).

Clytemnestra is young but apparently way older and has vampire like teeth; I don’t really know what’s going on with her. Then there’s Kite. She became friends with Eli when they were young. Spoiler alert: Kite is a witch. But not only that, she’s the heir to the Witch Lord. Whoever that is. The world building was confusing and not explained well enough, at least for me to understand.

Second, while the characters being diverse were great. I never felt any attachment to any of them. I didn’t care if they survived or completed their mission. The characters backstories and motives felt lackluster or rushed over, so it was hard to root for them or believe in their conflicts or mission.

I know this is the author’s debut novel, so I don’t want to say that it was all bad. I think the storyline, world, and characters were great, but think there could be great improvements to all of this.