In 2021’s Malice, Heather Walter created an enchanting dark take on the classic Sleeping Beauty story. For readers eagerly awaiting the second and final installment, Misrule is a worthy follow-up that will leave fans satisfied in a way they may not expect.
Misrule opens some time after the events of Malice, with protagonist Alyce having fully embraced her evil side in the aftermath of Aurora’s curse. Alyce is in pain and grieving the loss of her love to a spell she cannot undo without making Aurora hate her. With a century of fruitlessly trying to break the curse while warring with neighboring kingdoms, it seems not much is left of the woman the princess fell in love with all those years ago. But when a mysterious prince washes up on the shores of her kingdom and wakes Aurora with a kiss, Alyce must grapple with whether the princess who awakens is the same as the one who feel asleep a hundred years ago. Are she and Aurora are even meant to be together at all?
Misrule improves upon the already excellent Malice in every way possible. New characters add depth to the world of the story. I particularly enjoyed the addition of various creatures that find refuge in Alyce’s kingdom of dark outcasts, including mischievous imps who provide a lot of comic relief. As a dark fantasy, Misrule works on a number of levels. It builds an intriguing world of lore without bogging the reader down in exposition. While Walter’s decision to leave the series as a duology rather than adding more plot for plot’s sake was a wise one that helped strengthen Misrule, I would love more stories with the various characters we meet along Alyce’s journey.
Walter is not afraid of morally gray characters, with both Alyce and Aurora resisting easy characterization. Their love is deep but rocky, and the ups and downs of their relationship over the course of the novel gives the romance its bite. The two certainly have chemistry, and anyone who loves a good “princess falls for the monster” story will salivate over every scene between the two. At the same time, readers should not be assured that this fairytale will end in a simple happy ever after for the lovers. Without spoiling the final act, I will say that I found it immensely satisfying and true to both Alyce and Aurora’s personalities.
For readers looking for a sapphic romance with a dash of dark magic, Misrule is a satisfying conclusion to the Malice duology. It is available now wherever books are sold.