Book Review: Malice – Heather Walter

Publisher: Del Ray UK
Format: MOBI
Release Date: April 13th, 2021

Rating: 5/5 Stars

This book deserves every single star, plus more. Heather Walter takes fairy tales and tweaks them, not so much they’re unrecognisable, but enough to separate them from the Disney versions we know and love. Malice is beautiful and dark and powerful, much like Alyce herself.

In Briar, Graces are fairy-blessed, able to create elixirs to allow their patrons a taste of magic. There are different types – beauty and pleasure and wisdom. Then there is Alyce, and you may be asking, who the hell is Alyce? Well, I’ll tell you. Alyce is the Dark Grace.. Feared and sought by all for her elixirs which, unlike those of her ‘sisters’, contain powerful dark curses.

She doesn’t care for anything outside her Lair, content with Callow and simply trying to find a way to escape Briar. Until she meets the last heir to Briar’s throne, Princess Aurora, trapped under a curse which will kill her within the year.

Let me start by saying I really loved Alyce. Her voice comes through really powerfully, and she is a powerful woman trapped by circumstance. She is, at times, selfish, but she has been forged into a weapon, growing up berated for simply being herself. Alyce is made to hate herself, but she fights through this and keeps fighting. I can’t go deeper without going into spoiler territory, but she really does have an excellent character journey.

Briar reflects a brilliant hand at worldbuilding. We only see aspects of it, and only through Alyce’s eyes, but it is clear this is a place where the rulers enjoy much more out of life than the lower classes. And even though Alyce is powerful and feared, she is often neglected, in ways the other Graces aren’t. She has moments of strength, and moments of weakness, and every step she takes is informed fully by her as a character and the way the world has treated her.

The last few months have not been easy, and I hit a sort of reading slump. Malice helped break me out of that. It’s 400 pages, but it doesn’t feel that long, and it’s the kind of book that keeps drawing you back, keeps making you want to read more, find out more, and I really hope Heather Walter writes more, if not about Alyce, then about this world she’s created.

I love fairy tale retellings generally, but sometimes they can be disappointing. Malice straddles the line between twisting the tale too much, and simply telling it as the original but in a different setting. The different elements are there, and there are a couple of moments for fans of the original – or even the Disney version – to spot, but Walter really puts a new, unique stamp on Sleeping Beauty.

As you can probably tell, I really loved this book. The characters were intriguing, their interactions written really well, and overall I found it easy to get lost in this world. If you like dark fairy tale retellings, you will want to give this a go.

Thank you to Del Rey UK for providing me a copy of this book via NetGalley.

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