The tale of Sleeping Beauty gets a fun, dark, Sapphic twist with Malice.
Alyce is a Dark Grace, her magic can only be used for evil which causes her to be an outcast in a society that cherishes the golden, helpful magic of the Graces. When she secretly attends the birthday of Princess Aurora, Alyce finds a friend and ally in Aurora. As the two work together to break Aurora’s curse, they spark a friendship that may build into something more, but happiness is fleeting for a Dark Grace. Alyce must choose who to trust and who to help as her power grows.
This book is written in the vein of Disney’s villain twist movies, seeking to humanize the villain by diving into her background and switching to her point of view, and I think it is incredibly successful. Alyce is a complex character, filled with both kindness and hate. After enduring torture as a young girl by those seeking to understand and profit from her power, and a lifetime of bullying, Alyce is understandably unkind. Yet, she is an incredibly likable character. She’s funny, wry, and thoughtful and connects easily with Aurora.
Aurora has been cursed from birth; all the women in her family are cursed to die on their 21st birthday, unless she finds and is kissed by her true love. Because of this, Aurora endures constant suitors. From a young age, her family brings men from around the world to kiss Aurora and break the curse. But, it’s now her 20th birthday and she has yet to find her true love. Knowing that Alyce is part Vila and incredibly powerful, the two begin working together to break the curse on their own. These scenes with Alyce and Aurora working together are cute and romantically charged, pushing towards a plot point that is predictable but still incredibly satisfying.
As Aurora and Alyce are working together to break the curse, Alyca discovers a Vila who is trapped in a tower. He offers to help her understand and strengthen her powers, which catches the notice of the king who asks Alyce to make him increasingly dangerous cursed items. These plotlines can be incredibly frustrating, as Alyce seems oblivious to the fact that she is being taken advantage of. There are several plot points that make her look naïve, which I think is a little at odds with her character, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. The plot did lag at points, but it picked up in exciting ways. It’s a dark twist on the standard story built into a fascinating world of magic with compelling characters. The cliffhanger at the end was unexpected (I thought this was a standalone novel), but I’m looking forward to picking up the next one!
Have you read Malice? What’s your favorite twist on a fairytale? Let me know your thoughts!
[CW: murder, bullying, abuse]