Review: Malice by Heather Walter

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

It’s Pride Month, so you know I had to absolutely go for this queer fairytale retelling! I don’t know a single millennial-gay that didn’t realize they were just a hair on the gay side after crushing on some Disney princesses. For me, it was Pocahontas and Mulan. And then we got into the Lara Croft era, and that was enlightening. Anyway, let me get into the nitty-gritty. You’re not here to hear about my youthful gay panic. 

Malice follows our anti-hero Alyce (also known as Malyce) as she navigates the sticky waters of Briar’s polite society. She is, by trade, a Grace — someone whose magical aptitudes put them in roles of service for the Kingdom. In general, they are capable of using their magic for charms and enchantments. Often for the vanity of the upper echelon. However, Alyce’s half Vila blood has given her the reputation as the “Dark Grace.” Her magic doesn’t work quite the same. The Graces can make people beautiful, but she can only make them ugly. Try as she might to make herself fit, it’s clear she never will. Until she meets Princess Aurora and they become fast friends. Aurora seems to be the only person who sees her for who she is, not what. Further, she doesn’t seem even the slightest bit frightened. There is a curse hanging over Aurora’s head that can only be broken with true love’s kiss. Without it, she’ll die. Together, they work on dismantling the curse, leaving Alyce to learn more about her mysterious Vila heritage, and honing the magic she had grown to hate.

This book is dense. While I’m not directly referring to the page count, it can be considered a thicc queen at over 400 pages. What I mean is that the writing itself is quite densely packed. Any fantasy novel that boasts its own unique lore runs the risk of feeling a bit overburdened by world creation, and Malice, unfortunately, falls under the same umbrella. There were pockets of exposition that seemed to go on just a hair too long. And there were some parts that could have been whittled down to exclude some repetition. However, the expansive lore was interesting enough, I didn’t mind!

I loved Malice. I found myself itching to get back to the story, which was particularly distracting given that I chose to start reading during a very busy week. I was ranting and raving the entire time about its many upsides: its pacing, its character development, the excruciatingly beautiful execution of the mother-of-all-slow-burns.

My only major gripe comes at the end — which, of course, I’ll try to step around so that I don’t spoil this for future readers — when Alyce finally reaches her breaking point. We know, thanks to the description, that the villain wins in the end. I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed with how Walter chose to cause the character shift. I felt like there was more than enough backstory to justify an organic shift to the ending we saw. However, there was a plot device added to facilitate it that I felt was put there to exonerate our anti-hero in the second installment of the series (Misrule).

I may come back to write a full analysis after I’ve completed the second book (sorry friends, it will have spoilers). But, for now, I feel the need to be tight-lipped to see if you feel the same at the end of your reading journey. 

Do you like stories where villains win? I’d love to know your thoughts! Let me know in the comment section down below! 

You can find Heather Walter: Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Website.


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