The magic in this story is quite unlike anything else I'd read. Alyce, our main character and “villain” is a Dark Grace, unlike everyone else around her. Whilst Grace's can bestow beauty, wit and other benefits nobles enjoy with a few drops of golden blood, Alyce is the opposite. A drop of her green blood can cause warts, spoil cream and so much more. The land of Briar relies on the beautifying, the hair or eye colour change, the smoothing of wrinkles from the Graces whilst largely shunning Alyce. Of course, that doesn't stop them using her particular brand of magic on rivals when desired. Within the first few pages, I began to appreciate Alyce as a character and enjoy seeing things from a more morally grey point of view. The author does a great job of showing how the supposedly beautiful golden Graces are not as beautiful on the inside and how Alyce has plenty of hidden depth.
Part One was great. It built up the world of humans, Graces, Fae, Vila and a hint at a whole other host of fantastical species in a world that I could picture clearly with the wonderful descriptions. It also, of course, introduces our characters. As well as Alyce, the other characters worth mentioning are Aurora, Rose, Kal and Endlewild.
Aurora is the Princess, cursed to die if she doesn't have true love's kiss by her 21st birthday. If her name wasn't enough to give you a hint at the retelling, the curse should be reasonably familiar! Aurora's not your average Princess with the perfect manners, so it was fun to begin to learn her character and have her standout for more than just being a cursed princess.
Rose is an antagonist, a Grace that lives with Alyce in a house full of their Grace's. As Alyce is “dark”, they all tend to treat her differently, but Rose is particularly cruel with it. Come the end of Part One though, I began to see the flaws to her character that stemmed a lot from the stress and pressure of a) being a Grace and b) the fact that Grace powers have a limit and fade before long. It's a lot of weight to have on your shoulders, losing your power along with your way of making a tidy living.
Kal is... I'm not really sure. A mentor archetype but there's something more to him. I'm writing this at the end of Part One, so I'm not sure what yet, but there's definitely something there and he's powerful, so there'll be more to come from that, I'm sure.
Endlewild, finally, is the ambassador of the Fae to Briar. And he's not necessarily happy about it or a nice guy in general. Endlewild is responsible for torturing Alyce as a child and is another character I think we'll hear more about as the book progresses.
some time later
Part Two has struck and... wow. Where Part One was slowly drawing us in, showing us the depth of the world, exploring the characters, letting us begin to root for them. Part Two was unleashing all of that in angst, drama, love, action and then... the last few chapters. I don't want to spoil things too much but what I posted on Instagram shortly after probably sums it up. I closed the book and stared at the words “There was a villain.” for a good few minutes. There was a villain, indeed, and my brain can't quite handle that right now. The main issue with reading books pre-release of right at release is then the wait for the next book. Has the author even finished writing it yet? Possibly not. And yet, I need it. Now. Please.
I also need the art. The things illustrators could do with the use of colour in this book is going to be amazing, I'm telling you, and I really hope that happens.