Book Review



  • Author: Heather Walter
  • Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling
  • Publication Date: April 13, 2021
  • Publisher: Del Rey

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: bullying, child abuse

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

I’ve heard a lot of great things about this, and it all makes sense now. I’m a sucker for a great retelling, a queer romance, and a villain backstory, and this book rolled all of those things into one amazing story.

Alyce is the Dark Grace, forced to use her powers in ways she doesn’t want to. She has no other options, she isn’t well-liked, and she doesn’t blend in with anyone around her on account of her unpleasant appearance. In addition, she’s grown up hated and ostracized. Monsters aren’t born, they’re made, and this book illustrated that perfectly. Even though Alyce is half-Vila and considered a monster, she has such a good heart and just longs to be treated like a person.

So when she meets Princess Aurora, she is shocked to make her first real friend. Of course there’s politics involved, because Aurora is a princess and Alyce works for the crown, and I knew that the story wasn’t going to have a happy ending. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and wondered exactly how much Alyce would manage to put up with before she completely snapped. She managed to put up with way more than anyone should have ever asked of her.

I didn’t even realize how many pages there were in this story, because they flew by. I just couldn’t put this book down, and was completely absorbed in what was going on. The entire world was richly imagined, as were the characters. It painted what is usually a drab fairy tale in vivid colors, and made it way more interesting than I’ve ever found it. I think her desire to connect with others made her susceptible to manipulation, and I knew that someone would betray her, but rather than being predictable, it just made me suspicious of everyone.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 15

14 replies »

  1. I’d seen the cover before but never read the synopsis for it until now and whoa, I had no idea that I needed to read this book but now I can’t wait to get my hands on it! It sounds so good 😱 Great review, Leah!

    Liked by 2 people

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