Malice by Heather Walter is the fairytale story of Aurora, Sleeping Princess, spun on its head once again.
Seriously, though, the history of Sleeping Beauty is kind of a whirlwind.
Alyce – who her Grace sisters unaffectionately call Malyce – is the Dark Grace, part human, part Vila. The other Graces serve up blood elixirs for things like beauty, wisdom, music, even pleasure, but Alyce’s elixirs have always been relegated to serve those with secrets, conducting dealings in darkness and shadow.
A terrifying part of my soul whispers that I can do far more than spoil a jug of cream. That I want to.
When Alyce finally makes an appearance at the castle for a ball instead of to put an ill life at ease (by helping them die, a merciful killing you could say), she meets Aurora.
One of the promising points of this story is the LGBT+ representation. The budding romance Heather Walter has crafted between Alyce and Aurora (sidenote: I love female names that start with A) is formed with murky beginnings. I was reminded of this quote from To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar: “They only grow in darkness and dank but sweetness, how they blossom.”
As Aurora and Alyce work together to try to break that curse that will either end Aurora’s life or be broken by true love’s kiss, their common goal unites them. Alyce wants to see Briar flourish under Aurora’s rule – especially with more freedom for the Graces.
Relief blooms in my gut, then just as quickly wilts at the look in her eyes. They’re determined and sure. Reckless.
I love thinking of the emotions between Alyce and Aurora as something floral. Floral things are beautiful, but short-lived. Whether an intentional or incidental metaphor for their relationship, I do not know. But Walter’s writing really shined through Alyce’s voice.
This story is not complete without a healthy dose of magic, temptation, bloodlust, and the ill effects of an ancient war.
Here are a couple other quotes I liked:
Inside the wide columns, I note the kinds of elixirs I was asked to create, as well as the amount of blood I’d spilled, in drops, for each. Every Grace is required to report these details to her housemistress and the Grace Council, who then use the information to determine the strength of a Grace. Concerns arise when a Grace who once needed only three drops of blood to craft an elixir begins to need four or more. Or when her elixirs began to Fade faster than in the past.
Walter’s worldbuilding was magical. The description of how the Graces provide their magic to paying customers and the way the Graces are controlled on multiple levels enhances the lingering feelings that almost everyone is trapped in a cage – some cages are just more gilded than others.
“Honestly, did you two read the books you stole from the library?”
This quote was said by Laurel, one of the wisdom graces. Laurel gave me Hermione vibes!
To learn more about Heather Walter visit her at the following:
Misrule, the sequel to Malice, is set to release in 2022.
Fairytale retellings have been making a bigger appearance in my book selection this past year. Can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store!