The latest trend in fairy tale retellings is to take the presumed villain of a story and make them the tragic hero instead. Books like The Witch’s Heart and films like Maleficent or Cruella ask audiences to view those considered evil in a new light. Malice asks the same of its readers, but instead of fleshing out the backstory of an iconic villain, author Heather Walter chooses to create an entirely new protagonist instead in her dark fantasy novel, effortlessly blending elements from numerous fairy tales to create an engrossing novel sure to have fans excited for more.
Malice follows the story of Alyce, a Grace in the kingdom of Briar. Graces possess magical gifts and work for the nobility in Briar, creating elixirs to maintain beauty or create pretty illusions. Alyce has never been like the other Graces due to her Vila blood, for which she was nearly murdered as a child before it was determined her magic could be useful. Alyce’s gift is different due to her dark magic, which also makes her the focus of the kingdom’s scorn. She’s the Dark Grace, forced to create curses or face death at the hands of the rulers of Briar. But as she begins to seek out the source of her powers, she learns there’s more to Briar – and to her history – then she might have imagined.
But Malice is not just about Alyce’s search for who she really is. It’s also a love story. After a chance encounter at a ball, Alyce finds herself falling for Princess Aurora, the last heir of Briar doomed to die in a year if she cannot find her true love and break the curse on her crown with a kiss. At first glance, Aurora appears to be everything Alyce is not: beautiful, kind, the lightness in Briar. But there’s more to the princess than meets the eye, and as the two bond, Alyce comes closer and closer to believing that maybe she’s not the monster she was always told she was.
From the start, Malice reels the reader in with its characters and setting. While the book is largely based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty, Walter borrows from many other fairy tales like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, which lulls the reader with familiarity before twisting the story in unexpected ways. Alyce is a heroine worth rooting for, having endured hatred despite her attempts to fit in with the rest of Briar. She is a smart and interesting narrator, and the choice to tell her story entirely through her eyes is the correct one. Not only does the reader not see the many plot twists coming, but we are also able to feel her emotions more acutely as she slowly becomes the powerful woman she deserves to be. She’s not evil, but she’s not entirely good either, and her flaws make her more interesting than a standard YA fantasy heroine (if the label of “heroine” even fits her at all).
Malice is the first in a planned duology, and the cliffhanger ending will certainly have readers clamoring for the conclusion of Alyce’s tale. In Malice, Heather Walter combines intricate world building with a beautiful love story to create a mesmerizing and unique new fantasy.
Malice is available now wherever books are sold.