I’ll never be a heroine like Leythana. In Briar, I’ll only ever be a villain.
It’s two weeks until the release date of this incredible, sapphic dark fantasy novel. I knew I was going to love this sleeping beauty retelling, following the villainous rise of protagonist Alyce – and following her falling in love with Aurora. And I was right.
Rating: 5 stars!
Thanks to Del Rey for the ARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Trigger Warnings: self harm (for the purposes of doing magic), past human experimentation, past mental and physical abuse, consent issues, death, murder, manipulation, torture, drug use.
About the book:
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 it was a power like mine that 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.
Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
I am the villain.
What did I think?
I’m going to try and pull together a coherent review, instead of the gushing and screaming I want to do about this book. I already can’t wait for book two, and Malice isn’t even out yet. Once I got started on this one, I couldn’t stop reading.
Alyce is the shining star of this book. We all know I adore a villain, and Alyce is sheer perfection. Her character arc was so consistent throughout the entire book, which isn’t always easy in a morally grey character. I loved that she was hugely relatable. I knew that the things she was doing was wrong, but her reasoning was so crystal clear and understandable that I didn’t care that what she was doing was wrong. There’s a delicate balance to be had there, and Walter absolutely nailed it. Her behaviour devolves throughout the book, leading to an ending that while shocking enough to get an actual audible gasp out of me, still felt in character. Her previous behaviour was telling me exactly what would happen – and I just liked the character so much I chose to ignore it until the very end.
I could not possibly talk about this book without rhapsodising about Alyce and Aurora. I love them. I loooove them. They have this incredible slow burn relationship that builds so naturally that I fell in love alongside them. I’m usually, to be brutally honest, incredibly critical of relationships in fiction but Alyce and Aurora just felt pitch perfect. The way that they talked to each other and treated each other made my heart ache. Both wanted to be ‘normal’, and to be treated like they were nobodies – not the Princess and the Dark Grace – and that made me yearn for them to succeed. (It also made me yearn to read a dozen AU fanfics of these two, but that’s besides the point). They just work together, and I think Walter absolutely nailed it. I want every sapphic I know to read this book, because the hopeless sapphic energy is perfect.
I think the use of the retelling was really cleverly done. I’m a huge fan of retellings, but I’ve been disappointed often by the way it’s incorporated. Not so here. The recognisable elements were threaded through the story really well, with call backs to the Sleeping Beauty legend and moments that echoed the familiar tale. But equally Malice was a super fresh and exciting retelling, with the addition of the Grace system (fascinating), and the remixed curse.
I did feel like the worldbuilding was a little slow at points. It was very full and vivid, with everything a reader could need to know to understand what was happening, and the Grace system of magic was so interesting, but I did find that in moments it was a little overly descriptive and I got a bit bogged down by it all. It didn’t falter my enjoyment though, and I can’t wait for the sequel to find out what could possibly follow that ending.
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Release Date: 13th April 2021
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