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!

TTT | Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

As most book people are aware of The Storygraph, I’m going to take this Top Ten Tuesday to discuss books that were recommended to me through the Plus feature (this is in no way sponsored by The Storygraph). The books on the left side are the ones I’ve read, and the books on the right are the ones suggested by the Storygraph Plus feature for the book on the left.

Happy Reading Darlings!

TTT | Titles or Covers That Made Want to Read the Book

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

I’m a huge supporter of people who create book covers and think that they can make or break a book. Here are some of those covers that made me want to read the book.

Malice by Heather Walter

Kent State by Deborah Wiles

The Dead and The Dark by Courtney Gould

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Sadie by Courtney Summers

A Woman Without a Country by Eavan Boland

Happy Reading Darlings!

TTT | Books I Read In One Sitting

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

There are some books that just drag you in and won’t let you leave until you finish them. Here are those books for me!

Yes, I’m one of those white people who didn’t learn about the Tulsa Race Riot until watching the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen. But since then I have been finding books, both fiction and nonfiction, to learn more about this event.

Dreamland Burning is such a beautifully written book about such a horrible time period in America’s history. Going back and forth between Rowan Chase, a 17 year old girl living in modern-day Tulsa, and Will Tillman, a 17 year old boy living in 1920 Tulsa, as they try to uncover what happened that night and how it affects all of us today.

Rowan Caine stumbles across an ad for a nanny position. She’s not looking for a new job, but she ends up taking it. But once she arrives for the job, the kids who seemed angelic at the interview are anything but, the house’s electrical systems keeps going on the fritz, and she keeps feeling isolated in this remote house. Yet, the whole book is Rowan’s confession to what happened because a child is dead and she’s the one in jail for it. Mystery books are one of those were I have to finish even if I figure out what’s going to happen. I either have to know I’m right or need to figure out who the killer is.

If you want my thoughts on this book then check out my review for it here.

I don’t think I’ll ever be over this book, it was that good! I read it in one day over the Christmas holidays. A book that has a mystery, lesbian necromancers, and a haunted gothic palace in space, sign me up!

I haven’t posted my review for this yet, but oh man, do I need to the next book in this duology! A retelling of sleeping beauty that has lesbians and a more developed magic system. In Briar, there are Graces, those granted with powers from the faeire kingdom, they’re able to give out spells and enchantments to those who can afford them. Alyce is the Dark Grace, someone born with dark magic in their veins. But Aurora and Alyce meet and soon become friends, then more.

Just like the four Hawthorne grandsons, I was pulled into the mystery of Avery Grambs. Who was she? Why did Tobias leave his entire fortune to her? What was up with this house? What really happened to Tobias Hawthorne’s son? So many questions and I need the next book in the series, NOW!

Also, is there a way I can explore this house? Pretty please?

Here is my review for the book.

I’m still shocked by how much I loved Hank Green’s book, especially considering that the only book by John Green I’ve actually finished is The Fault in Our Stars (I totally just blanked on the name of that book while writing this). While I enjoy the Green brothers YouTube videos, I’ve never been a fan of John Green’s books. I thought I’d read Hank’s and it would be the same. Yet, it wasn’t!

The storyline totally pulled me in, as well as the philosophical questions of fame and money and how much it goes to our head. Along with that, the questions on progress and technology, of those who are different from us. I have yet to get the second book because I’m wanting to re-read this one first (and I haven’t had the time to do that).

I legitimately stayed up until around 2 am to finish this book. That was back when I didn’t have as much of a problem with Sarah J. Maas, since then I haven’t really enjoyed her books as much. I’m also completely tired of the whole “mates” idea.

I could do a whole post on why I’ve changed my views on Sarah J. Maas, but a post by Between the Pages sums up basically all the same views that I have.

Anyway, I’m not saying her books are bad, nor am I saying she’s a bad person, but they’re just not my cup of tea anymore. If you like her books and they bring you joy, great! I’m so happy you’ve found a book/author you love! (This is not me being sarcastic, for those who know me, it may come off that way, and I apologize if it does. I’m being serious here).

I love Pip and Ravi so, so, so much!! Holly Jackson had such great characters, plot, pacing in this book that it kind of set a new standard for me on YA murder/crime fiction. I have a copy of the second book, Good Girl, Bad Blood, but I haven’t read it because I’m not ready to let go of Pip and Ravi!

This book was definitely difficult to read at times, due to the topic of forced marriages in the book, but I read it one sitting because I NEEDED to know what was going to happen to Naila.

After Naila is busted by her parents for going to prom with her boyfriend, they all go on a family trip to Pakistan to visit with family. Unbeknownst to Naila, her parents are arranging a marriage for her while she’s there. Definitely a book that needs to be read and a topic that should be talked about more.

Not going to lie, I was hesitant to read this since it was published by James Patterson. I’m so glad I did give it a chance because oh was it such an interesting twist on Jack the Ripper.

Audrey is born a lord’s daughter and has wealth and privilege set before her. Yet, she wants to cut up dead bodies. What girl doesn’t? But soon, Audrey is dragged into an investigation of a serial killer and her search for answers may bring her back to her own home. Again, a good murder mystery always keeps me up reading.

Happy Reading Darlings!

#FridayFives | Fairytale Retellings on my TBR

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.

I love a good fairytale. But even better than a fairytale is a fairytale that has been retold and updated. Changing the gender or making them more diverse in their telling. Having the princess save herself. I’m here for it all!

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Goodreads

A reimagining of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses as flappers during the Roaring Twenties in Manhattan. I’m obsessed with the 20s (yes, I romanticize it, and I recognize this), and I’m fascinated to see how this plays out.

Goodreads

Fall in love, break the curse.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Goodreads

To be upfront, I’m not a fan of Romeo and Juliet. I think it’s overdone, especially when there are more tragedies to choose from. With that out of the way, I am very much interested in reading of this Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depts of the Huangpu River.

Goodreads

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of Sleeping Beauty, true love is more than a simple fairytale.

Not only do I love retellings, but I love books where the main POV or narrator are the villain. Villains are so much more fun to read (and write) than the good guys. (I actually finished this one earlier this week).

Goodreads

Happy Reading Darlings!