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Malice

Publisher’s Description

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.


Review

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Conclusion

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!

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The Skogsrå

The skogsrå is one of the important genii loci, the spirit of the Forest from Scandinavia. She will appear to hunters mostly but also to some travellers through the forests of her domain.

The Skogsra is often described as human-like being, but with something uncanny about her. She’s often very beautiful but will have a tail or a back formed like a (rotten) tree trunk. The first morph (a tree trunk back) is common in Denmark, mid- and southern Sweden, but the tail is common in western and northern Sweden and Norway. Normally, the Skogsra has a a cow’s tail, but she can sometimes have a fox tail.

The Skogsra sometimes doesn’t appear to forest travellers as a young woman, but as an old and ugly hag. But these appearances are quite rare.

The Skogsra often approaches and tries to seduce men by various ways.

In folklore material, two types of men were most often approached by the Skogsra – charcoal-burners and hunters. Both of these groups of men were alone in the forest for long periods at a time.

In exchange for sexual encounters, a man might actually became her lover and the Skogsra could help him and grant rewards – like making sure his rifle never missed, and waking him if the charcoal stack was about to burn down. Both these are blessings made possible by the Skogsra and when the men are within her forest.

References

https://folklorethursday.com/folktales/skogsra-and-huldra-the-femme-fatale-of-the-scandinavian-forests/

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For the Wolf

Publisher’s Description

THE FIRST DAUGHTER IS FOR THE THRONE.
THE SECOND DAUGHTER IS FOR THE WOLF.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose – to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in order to save her kingdom. Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the Wilderwood – and her world – will be lost forever.


Review

I read the exciting first volume in a new epic fantasy series, For the Wolf (The Wilderwood, #1) by US author Hannah Whitten. Compared to Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, this is a new dark fantasy world, haunting in its exploration of fairytales and folklore.

For the Wolf follows protagonist Redarys, second daughter to the throne and born to be sacrificed to the legendary wolf monster of the Wilderwood. Her twin sister, Neve, first daughter to the throne is born to rule the kingdom. While Redarys (Red) accepts her fate, Neve tries everything to prevent her from entering the Wilderwood. Neve sees the sacrifice as futile, the wolf not seen in generations nor the five kings returned that he purportedly imprisoned and in doing so, created the Wilderwood. Each sacrifice of a second daughter ensures the monsters of the Wilderwood stay within the wood’s boundaries and the continued fortune of the kingdoms.

Once the Wilderwood, Red flees tangled branches that reach for her and trees desiring her blood. She finds neither the monstrous wolf, nor the five kings imprisoned by him. Instead, Red survives the Wilderwood and discovers a crumbling castle shrouded by forest, untouched by the rot growing through most of the Wilderwood. There she meets the tired defender of the Wilderwood; Eammon, the legendary Wolf of the Wilderwood.

Final Thoughts

For the Wolf was a lush and dark reimagining of fairytales ‘Red Riding Hood’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Snow White, Rose Red’. The folklore of the Greenman was explored in the finale’s battle between giant deities. A dark fantasy, fairytale reimagining, folklore-infused, romance that was a refreshing read.

Conclusion

For the Wolf is a highly recommended read. Those readers of dark fantasy, fairytale reimagining, slow-burn romances and blending of genres will love this book. A great read!

research

Isle of Skye: Fairy Glen

The Isle of Skye is rich in fairy lore. One of the most magical-looking is the miniature landscape of grassy, cone-shaped hills and whimsical rock spirals of Fairy Glen.

There is no documented folklore linking the landscape to the realm of myth, and there have been no actual sightings of fairies, Fairy Glen is rich in folklore. You can easily imagine the the fairy folk in this landscape.

There is another explanation for the rock formations found at Fairy Glen. The geological formations are the result of a landslip, triggered by volcanic activity on northern edge of the Isle of Skye about 60 million years ago. The resultant lava flow that would have covered northern Skye was 1,200m thick.

To many, this otherworldly landscape was created by the fairies. There’s belief the fairies still live here, hiding in the crevices…Remember it’s important to leave Fairy Glen as you found it: the fairies are watching you.

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The Rarkyn’s Familar

Publisher’s Description

An orphan bent on revenge. A monster searching for freedom. A forbidden pact that binds their fates together.

Lyss has heard her father’s screams; smelled the iron-tang of his blood. She witnessed his execution. And plotted her revenge.

Then a violent encounter traps Lyss in a blood-pact with a rarkyn from the Otherworld and imbues her with the monster’s forbidden magic. A magic that will erode her sanity. To break the pact, she and the rarkyn must journey to the heart of the Empire. All that stands in their way are the mountains and the Empire’s soldiers—and each other.

But horrors await them on the road- horrors even rarkyns fear.

The most terrifying monster isn’t the one Lyss travels with…

It’s the one that’s awoken inside her.

Monsters of a feather flock together.


*** I received an ARC and I’m leaving a voluntary review ***

Review

The Rarkyn’s Familiar is the debut Fantasy novel by New Zealand author Nikky Lee.

The Rarkyn’s Familiar follows the protagonist Lyss, an orphan apprentice in a camp of lowly trained mancers. When hunting with two brothers from the camp, they come across a landslide in the mountain roads. A partially destroyed cart contains one of the kingdom’s most feared creatures trapped within a cage. A rarkyn. In a series of well-intended gestures, the three release the powerful sigils on the chains and free the rarkyn but not before it bonds itself as a familiar to Lyss.

Now bonded as familiars, Lyss and the rarkyn have a short amount of time to find someone in the capital capable of breaking their bond before the overwhelming magic of the rarkyn drives Lyss insane. Hunted by the Order mancers, soldiers and the rarkyn’s last captor, Lyss’s magic grows more powerful the more time she spends bonded to the rarkyn but so does her own dark potential. Time is running out for Lyss and the rarkyn if they want to survive the binding.

Final Thoughts

The Rarkyn’s Familiar is an engaging debut novel exploring a unique concept of familiar bonding; where a human becomes bonded to a fantastical creature. This adds a refreshing aspect to the storyline and complex world building that feels genuine for these characters and histories. The is a truly worthwhile read from a new voice in epic fantasy.

Conclusion

A great read for anyone seeking a unique from a debut author and a well-crafted epic fantasy. Highly recommended!