From the exquisite cover to the stellar blurb, this book was an instant click request for me. I love fairy tale retellings, and Sleeping Beauty holds a soft spot in my heart. My daughter's favorite princess, there's not a week that goes by that we don't read the classic Disney version of Aurora and her curse, so I was thrilled to be approved for this title.
Alyce is the Dark Grace, an eponym she's not fond of and can't shirk. Different from her sisters, the Graces, Alyce can't charm beauty or wit, and no one lets her forget her outcast status. But as the fate of the princess Aurora becomes dire, Alyce finds herself in an interesting position. She's learning more about her history, about her powers, about herself, and these strands just may lead to the path of saving Briar from the centuries-long curse. This is an excellent read. First, I'm not a fan of long, drawn-out worldbuilding sequences. I want to know details as I need them, not be handed exposition on a fifty-page platter, and Walter structured this story well. I loved getting to know the nuances of Briar's history, the war and all its effects, and the law system controlling the Graces. This is where the story really shone for me. The Graces hold so much power, but aren't free to use this power at will. The court controls their lives, and because of this, we're given the perfect motivation for unrest. The connection between the past and present, too, is necessary in highlighting the urgency of Alyce's turmoil. As a narrator, I found her voice to be strong and endearing. I got some Cinderella-esque dynamics between her and her sisters, and I quite enjoyed her interactions with the other Graces. It's difficult to create a character shunned for her differences who overcomes doubt in order to blossom without depicting a trope. This is even more so the case when you're focusing on a story that everyone knows and some consider cannon. However, Walter gave us a sapphic take on this tale that was fresh and ethereal. The romance between Alyce and Aurora has potential to launch a solid series. I will say that this is a slow build to the action. That's not to say the first half of the book drags or lacks interesting details, but for me, the real magic started happening at about the halfway point. Character arcs started developing depth, and the conflict became more obvious yet layered. The final chapter is especially spectacular, and if you're looking for a book that goes out with a bang, this will definitely be the one for you. Mysterious, charming, and engrossing, Malice is a wonderful take on a classic fairy tale that you won't want to miss. Out in April 2021, add it to your TBRs now. Big thanks to Ballantine and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.