By Heather Walter
Author: Heather Walter
- Series: Book 2 of Malice
Publisher: Del Rey
- ISBN: 9781529101300
- Published: May 2022
- Pages: 400
- Format reviewed:
- Review date: 06/06/2022
- Language: English
Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty, or do they? Malice by Heather Walter retold the story leading up to Aurora falling asleep, but with far more detail on Aurora and her relationship with Alyce, the person responsible for her curse. Misrule opens 100 years later and tells the second part of the fairy tale when the Princess is awoken, but this is no simple fable. When this Princess wakes she will not be compelled and there is the messy matter of the relationship with Alyce, who has since risen to be the head of Briar.
After the events of Malice, Alyce has spent the decades creating her own court made up from the disenfranchised and abandoned dark magical creatures. She stands of the precipice of taking the war to the Fairy High Court, but will her secret be her undoing. Hidden deep within her private library is the sleeping form of Aurora. Not only is she a human, but a Briar Princess, the enemy of the Dark Court. Can Alyce awaken Aurora and, if she succeeds, will their feelings be the same? Is she willing to sacrifice all her power to be with the one she loves?
The reason Malice, and in turn Misrule, are such good retellings of Sleeping Beauty is that they refuse to be simple books. The relationships in these books are complex and move back and forwards. One moment characters can be lovers, the next sworn enemies. As a reader you never get the chance to assume that a character is being truthful as they may turn at any point.
What differentiates the two books is the sense of scale. Whilst both are contained within the Kingdom of Briar, Misrule is all about how this Dark Court is affecting the wider world. Book one was an internal affair that built as the relationship between Alyce and Aurora grew. By book two the stakes are far higher. Alyce is the de facto Queen of all the dark creatures in the land and they look to her for guidance. Her weakness sleeps deep within the walls of her kingdom.
The Malice Duology refuses to paint the dark creatures as evil and the light as good. There are sides to each. Gathering demons, goblins and imps together sounds evil, but Alyce is giving them a home free from persecution. It is an imperfect palace; heads adorn spikes and humans are slaves, but how the High Court treated the dark creatures was also evil.
Misrule is a book about politics and compromise. Are creatures from both sides willing to forgive and forget to see a brighter future? This dynamic is reflected in how Alyce and Aurora’s relationship evolves. Can Aurora ever forgive Alyce for shapeshifting into her dragon form and destroying her home, killing so many of her former friends and relations? The initial answer seems like no, but Walter writes complex relationships that can understand that some things are bigger than their own feelings. This is a book led by emotions, but also sacrifice.
With its complex relationships, Misrule is a page turner of a book as you never know who will spurn who next. All the sparring within the court is played out in front of a world at war. Magical creatures fighting magical creatures, the humans caught somewhere in between. The book is both epic and personal at the same time. A wonderful retelling of a fairy tale that adds so many layers to what on the surface seems a simple story. Can two people ever truly have a happy ever after?
Written on 6th June 2022 by Sam Tyler .