Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily ever after. Utter nonsense. Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.
Until I met her.
Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though a power like mine was responsible for her curse.
But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps together we could forge a new world. Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
I am the villain.
One of my recent reads was Malice (Malice Duology, #1) by US author Heather Walter.
Malice follows the protagonist Alyce, one of the Briar kingdom’s Graces- mortals born with weak Fae heritage with blood able to produce eilixrs. The other Graces have golden blood which bestows beauty, charm and wit. Alyce, or the ‘Dark Grace’ as she is known, is part-Vila, one of the Dark-Fae and her green blood reviled for bestowing curses not charms. Yet, like all the Graces, Alyce is unable to leave the Kingdom of Briar – bound to serve in Grace Household and earnings leveraged to the Briar crown.
In the Kingdom of Briar, Alyce is despised for being part-Vila, the Dark Fae who were too powerful for the Light Fae Etherians to destroy until they allied with the mortals. The alliance forged between the Etherians and the Queens of Briar resulted in the establishment of Briar.
In Briar, Alyce is considered a symbol of past hatred and fear. Only the heir to the Briar crown, princess Aurora finds companionship and understanding with Alyce. All heirs to the Briar throne bear the curse from a powerful a Vila to die before their twenty-first birthday if the curse isn’t broken by their true love. Despite this history, an unlikely relationship is forged between Alyce and Aurora. But Alyce has kept her secrets from Aurora when she allies with a mysterious prisoner from the destroyed Vila kingdom with promises to unlock Alyce‘s true power.
Malice was an exciting read, a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale that was both satisfying as an epic fantasy in its own right, an queer romance, and a fairytale retelling. It was the combination of these aspects which made Malice something more than a genderbent version of a fairytale – it made it a reworking of a classic into an epic fantasy in its own right. Expertly done.
A highly recommended retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. A unique epic fantasy that will satisfy readers of fairytale retellings, dark fantasy, queer romance and truly excellent worldbuilding. A great read!