I first heard about Malice from Lorraine of a Geeky Galaxy when she listed it on her April 2021 books to add to your TBR. Naturally, Malice got added to my TBR. I then watched a promotional video featuring Heather Walter during the Del Rey Virtual Showcase (read the highlights here!) and heard about the book in her own words. I was even more sold on this book so when Del Rey offered me a chance to read the book I grabbed the chance with both hands.
This book was provided for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Rachel Kennedy at Del Rey for the opportunity to review Malice!
So what was it about Malice that caught my attention so much? I
loved, no, I quite frankly adored the brutal honestly of the synopsis. It didn’t just look fairytales or the current young adult book ideal of happily ever after in the eye and say ‘this is bollocks’. It went straight for the jugular and then threw it out the fricking window. It was clear from the moment you picked this book up that it wasn’t going to prance around holding the reader’s hand and calming take off their rose-tinted glasses. Nope, this book was going to show the ugly business of what it was like for the villain, for someone who was reviled and hated.
In her promotional video, Heather Walter explained that Malice was the result of her desire to create a non-shallow female villain, one with layers and that intrigues me further. She talked about how other classical female villains are shown as shallow, their vendettas fuelled by trivial desires or revenge. Most of my favourite fandoms feature villains who were not born dark, who turned away from the light because of how they were treated or because they made a hard choice. I’m intrigued to journey with this villain to see where her journey begins and how it shapes her into what she may become. Will she be the villain everyone expects? Or will she be the villain they deserve?
I’ve been struggling to find the words to write this review because to be quite frank, Malice blew me away. There are some books that are amazing, and then there are some books that sing a song that echoes in your heart. Malice is one of those for me. I connected very strongly with the character of Malice and her circumstances on a personal level and revelled in her transformation.
The world Heather Walter has created is rich, vibrant, inherently flawed and incredible. This is a book about a villain and her story, and yet it’s so much more than that. The fantasy world that Malice is a part of has such unique races that I was craving more information with every page. I liked the way that this knowledge was imparted to the reader from two very different sources as well, making us question the validity of the information at every step.
That’s one of the core themes of this novel; truth and especially the truth of history. The old adage that history is written by the victor is in play here, although it’s not quite as simple as that. What happens when the victor’s story gets manipulated and usurped? Their power diluted over time until they don’t really have it anymore? That’s the situation that Princess Aurora finds herself in and she’s most definitely not a sleeping beauty. There is nothing passive or damsel like about Aurora and she’s incredible. She’s the type of strong female character that we need to see more of in YA.
Unfortunately, both Malice and Aurora are playing a game with only half the cards and this is a world where power reigns, and while they have the power of truth and good on their side that isn’t enough. This is a book about a villain, not a hero and Walter delivers that in full colour and heart-wrenching emotion. Even as I read the final scenes of the book a part of me was begging for it not to happen, and I realised that we’re pre-conditioned to fight against the villain. The problem is that things aren’t that black and white, and Malice is a book of greys upon greys. Very few characters in this book are not grey (I can count two, and one of them I suspect is probably quite grey, we just don’t know anything about her – yet) and even when you think you’ve worked one out, Walter is there with a scene that changes your entire perspective.
Malice isn’t all sour and dour though; it’s fun, flirty and beautiful too. It’s filled with Sleeping Beauty, Disney and fairytale easter eggs as well. This is a fantasy novel that is a treat to read.
Malice is a book for people who like something different, who like characters who don’t fit into those nice neat little boxes. It’s a book about an underdog who finds someone who understands them and wants them for who they are, not who they want them to become. There’s female friendship and romance, a unique magic system, intrigue and so much more. It’s definitely a must-read for fans of fairytales!
Over to you
Many thanks for reading my review of Heather Walter’s debut novel Malice! I hope I managed to articulate what makes this novel so special and didn’t just word vomit. It truly is a wonderful book 🙂
Have you read Malice? What did you think?
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