I will always be willing to read queer fairy tale retellings – no exceptions. I’ve been excited for Malice ever since you told me queer “Sleeping Beauty” retelling from Malice’s POV. Because I love the construction of monstrous women and seeing the stories behind what we’ve been taught to see as villains. Keep reading this book review to find out my full thoughts.
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.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Malice is a book that revolves around deconstructing this villianess narrative. Because of her differences, Alyce is ostracized, even as they need her magical skills. Alone and reviled, Alyce questions whether her power is a curse or blessing, wondering if she will be hated by everyone she meets. What intrigued me about Malice is the way that Alyce’s society has constructed her monstrosity. The ways they’ve perpetuated lies and ignorance, those who stand by and watch her treatment, to perpetuate this myth of her own monstrosity.
But what Alyce needs to do is figure out not only her own powers, but the truth of the world around her. She struggles to embrace, and train, the power within her while she searches for allies and friends. While Alyce makes mistakes, like having power you never thought you had paired with vengeance, she is still very much entrenched in a system which seeks to destroy her. To tolerate her when she’s needed, but as soon as she leaves the boundaries of their cages, will do whatever it takes to turn her into what they always believed. As Alyce, how does she figure out who she wants to be, without falling into their traps?
I loved that Malice was told exclusively through Alyce’s perspectives. People will lash out as differences, use any excuse to justify their own motivations, of reminders that they aren’t alone in the middle of the night, that there are powers they don’t understand and worlds that lie in the waiting. But in this society where nothing Alyce seems to do seems to change their opinion, they’re committed to seeing the worst, how does Alyce stop herself from becoming what they fear? What they love to hate?
Are the blacksmiths to blame for the use of their tools? Malice questions the system around Alyce that seeks to make her a weapon. To bend her power to their will. The ways that not only Alyce, but Aurora and the other Graces are in cages, even if we cannot see them from the outside. The forces that tries to twist our actions, our words, and our hearts into monsters are powerful. How can we fight against them? Malice is a unique and refreshing fairy tale retelling. It asks important questions about expectations, power, and hate.