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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.
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.
Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
I am the villain.
-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.
Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.
(4 / 5) This is a dark Sleeping Beauty retelling with a few hints of Cinderella mixed in. I love a good retelling and I typically like it when the story strays from the original (or should I say Disney version cause that’s what I know) and twists in a different direction. The dark additions make it fun for me.
Alyce is an abused, neglected and used Dark Grace. She’s different than the other Grace’s because her elixirs seem to only cause harm where the others are for beauty and wisdom and more. Alyce is a great morally gray character . Her hard life has caused her to mistrust everyone. It also festers inside her so it’s suspenseful waiting to see if she breaks or conforms. I really liked her and the pacing until the last quarter of the book. It’s almost 500 pages so my attention might’ve waned a bit but I lost interest right when the action started happening and it didn’t quite come back. There was a twist that I didn’t love that made a character change and it didn’t jive with what my feelings were at that point. It changed enough for me to lose a bit of the interest that had kept me going.
Content Summary: The protagonist is actually 20yo and everyone else is about that age or older. It still felt like YA so that wasn’t an issue until the intimacy became quite detailed. It’s definitely one to review before handing to a younger teen. The language was fairly low and had 4 F words. Those F words felt oddly out of place when the other language was so minor. Violence was pretty detailed when it came to abuse, and blood was mentioned many times.
Thank you to Ransom House Publishing Group- Ballatine/ Del Rey for the gifted copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book releases April 13, 2021.
Detailed Content Review
Derogatory terms etc-
Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking
Wine is served at a ball.
Etherium is a powder that does many things but at larger doses it causes euphoria.
A man mixes etherium into his wine.
Wine is served at a dinner.
A man drinks wine.
A woman takes bloodrot to thin her blood and increase her powers. It’s dangerous.
Wine is served at a party. Etherium is served at a party. Many are intoxicated.
Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty
*Moderate Plus: additional sensual scenes LGBTQ+ aspects included*
Couples of the same gender are common in this kingdom.
A man kisses a woman.
“Pleasure Graces” are similar to prostitutes but have magical abilities for pleasure.
Previous queens took lovers of both genders. There were many instances of love or consorts with same genders in previous years.
“…I veer around a pair of women who seem much more concerned about the taste of each other’s necks…”
A woman holds a woman’s face. The woman “crushes” her lips to hers. The kiss deepens and one woman lets out a cry and the other explores her mouth with her tongue. One pushes the other against the wall and runs her hands down the sides of her breasts and nibbles her earlobe.
A woman kisses a woman. She kisses each finger and her palm then nibbles her wrist. The woman grabs her and kisses her. She undoes her dress to where it’s hanging open in the front, only a shift underneath. The other drops her gown to the floor then she “explores” the others chest with her hands. She kisses her neck then roams her body with her hands. She then takes off her own shift as the other watches and admires. “Heat pools between (her) legs.” And she takes off her shift also. “My head drops back as her lips and tongue discover places I never dreamed could feel so tender. And then she moans as her mouth finds somewhere entirely new, filling my whole body with a vibration that will shatter me. The feeling intensifies, and I arch backward, bracing myself against the edge of a table. (Her) mouth moves quicker, tongue flicking against me, warm, wet heat traveling up the length of my body. My arms shake… want to beg her to stop, or to move faster, for the earth to yawn open and swallow me whole, my body goes rigid. An explosion begins where (she) is inside of me, shooting through every fiber.”
Two parents highly disapprove of two women being lovers.
A woman briefly kisses a woman.
A woman kisses a woman.
A woman kisses a woman.
Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood
Young women (Graces) use their own blood in elixirs that they make.
A man is cursed to live in a tower for many years.
A young girl is experimented on to find her powers. She is hurt in many ways. She has a scar from a man burning her while trying to determine her powers. She screamed as he did it. She remembers being strapped to a table with her wrists split and bleeding into buckets. They were trying to bleed toxins out of her. She was also given an ice bath of cleansers and etherium.
As a punishment, a woman is thrown in the sea and drowns.
A curse has forbidden heirs to live past age 22. Two have recently died.
A man coughs blood in a woman’s face then seizes with his face turning purple and dies. She has been called many times to aid in helping one to die by using her powers.
A woman is bullied many times. Typically with words.
A young woman cuts a young woman and drips her blood into a pot. Again.
A woman tries to run from a punishment. She is held down and shackled, making her paralyzed so they can use her blood.
A woman is found on the ground with blood pooling beneath her.
Three prisoners are brought out. They have ripped and dirty clothing and bodies that look like they’ve been starved.
A father threatens his daughter’s life.
Two women cut their palms for a blood oath.
A man ties a woman and throws her over his shoulder, taking her.
A man previously threw a woman in the water to kill her.
A woman bites a man. He slaps her very hard.
A woman is cursed and falls to the ground dying.
Using a curse, many are harmed or injured. One curse is to go blind, another is long sleep.
Using magic, a woman causes a man to clutch his throat and purple in the face then he collapses, dead.
A woman grabs a woman’s magic with her magic, making her lose breath and fight to breathe. She is in agony.
A woman squeezes a woman’s magic until she falls dead. She does this to many people.
The sound of flesh separating from bone is heard.
**SPOILER** A woman collapses a roof on many men, killing them. A battle starts. Cannonballs are shot from each side, killing some. A barbed dragon’s tail hits and kills. A dragon claws a man, his insides spilling. A house is burned, purposely making it so people cannot escape. Ships are set on fire. A man is killed and a woman wants more of his blood.
Potentially Intense Themes
A baby was previously left in a basket in an alley.
Previously, two young women who were in love, throw themselves off a cliff as they were forbidden to be together.
**SPOILER** Someone uses magic to try and resurrect someone long dead then place them in another’s body.
**Any quotes from the book are taken from the advanced copy and therefore may not be fully accurate or correctly compare to the final copy of the book.
**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.