First of all, a huge thank you to Quill & Crow Publishing House for sending me an ARC of Her Dark Enchantments by Rosalyn Briar, along with some magical bookish goodies that you can check out below. I have been dying to read this dark fairytale-inspired romance and villain origin story of the Wicked Fairy from "Sleeping Beauty." It's one of my all-time favorite tales to see retold, so I'm excited I got the chance to review it for you witches.
Genre: Dark Romantasy
Category: Cozy Read
Want to know more about how we categorize books? See our Lexicon for details.
RATING: 4/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 stars
Characters: 4/5 stars
World: 4.5/5 stars
The Wicked Fairy. The Mistress of All Evil. The villain of Sleeping Beauty goes by many names, but where did she come from?
Myravelle Spinner grew up in a tower with only spiders, spindles, and stone walls for friends while her mother spun gold for the king. She wondered why her mother refused to teach her fairy magic until one fateful mistake led Myravelle to become the healer in the king’s Sleepy Wood Company. Drained from years of waking soldiers from a cursed sleep, Myravelle must now choose a new canvas–a man whose life she drains with a dagger to fuel her healing powers. A ritual binds her to Byzarien Dumont, who loathes fairies for the fires that left his family impoverished and his body riddled with scars. His burning hatred causes Myravelle’s enchantments to wilt, leading the king to threaten her mother’s life. Byzarien can only see Myravelle as a beautiful spider who strings men along her web, while Myravelle considers love a weakness for the king to exploit. With their families in danger and soldiers rotting in a death-like sleep, the pair must learn to trust one another before the dark magic spinning in Myravelle’s soul unravels once and for all. The Wicked Fairy never asked to become a monster…
I'm going to start with the world-building for this review, because the first thing you notice (and one of my favorite aspects) about the story is the unique world. The kingdom of Eglantyne has been in the clutches of eternal winter for some time, and the reader first finds themselves in a soldier encampment at the edge of the Sleepy Wood. Within the forest rests Dormyra trees, whose cursed wood will put someone into a death-like slumber if they get so much as a splinter from it.
First of all, what a cool twist to the sleeping curse. I've yet to come across a retelling that portrays the wood itself as a danger, and it makes so much more sense than randomly choosing a spindle. It's not the spindle that matters, it's the wood it's crafted from. But Myravelle and her mother being spinners of gold (tying in a nod to "Rumpelstiltskin," which also makes sense) lays the foundation for why, specifically, a spindle is chosen. I don't know about you witches, but I love when a retelling adds context and importance to seemingly arbitrary details from the original tale.
Even without the pantheon of gods who range from Guerrix (god of war) to Filoux (god of nightmares), the French-inspired character names with an edge, and the lush faecore descriptions in a lyrical writing style, that concept is enough to pique my interest and pluck the strings of my dark fairytale obsession.
She led Byzarien through the winding army encampment, past the Guerrix temple, and into the ancient forest dusted with snow. There, mushrooms and lichens claimed the corpses of logs, and the skeletal branches of the trees swayed in the wind. Imposing elms, thick oaks, and crooked alders all waited patiently for the spring that would never arrive.
This is a heavily character-driven book, and if you've been with us any time at all, you know those are our favorite at Coffee, Book, & Candle. Myravelle, the main character destined to become the Wicked Fairy, was not at all what I expected, but in a refreshing way. Rather than let her imprisonment turn her harsh and cruel, she is a soft and nurturing soul. Each life she drains to wake the sleeping soldiers eats away at her, especially since she has to take them as lovers for her spells to work. She mourns them in her own quiet way by leaving paper flowers at their graves since real ones will not grow.
Byzarien knelt beside her and ran his finger over the stone of his friend's grave. He lifted one of the paper flowers, which was an intricately designed white rose. "What are these for?"
"They deserved something beautiful."
Byzarien, meanwhile, is stubborn, standoffish, and a little cranky (things we love to see in a love interest). He's hated fairies since he was young and his family lost everything, along with his younger brother, in a fire caused by fairies—so he's not the most receptive to Myravelle or any kindness from her. Watching the painful dance between Myravelle's silent determination to be better than what people think of her and Byzarien's determination not to lose sight of the fact that she's killed his friends keeps the reader invested for a good chunk of the book before things start to heat up.
Their romance is sweet and, when they finally give in to it, it's like their souls were destined for one another.
Since this was a character-heavy story (no complaints here), the plot is slow to get going and stays in the background for the majority of the book. There are hints throughout that the king is behind a lot of evil in the land, as well as secrets Myravelle wishes to uncover: who is her father? How was her mother taken from the fairies and why did they never come for her? Why are relations between humans and fairies strained and can that ever be repaired? Will there be an end to the eternal winter? These questions are answered one by one in well-paced reveals after a good chunk of the character development occurs. Without spoiling anything, I'll just add a wink-wink-nod to keep reading, because once the mystery starts to unravel, the pace picks up immensely. Some of my favorite scenes and quotes appear in the latter half of the book with Myravelle's slow shift into her villain arc.
An ember of rage ignited in her chest, and she turned to Byzarien. "Will you still love me if I do something awful?"
He met her eyes. "I will."
All I will say is the plot and character development merge and come full circle for a satisfying ending that fans of villain origins and old fairytales won't want to miss.
Though the book starts out slow and the plot isn't in the foreground much, I thoroughly enjoyed this character-driven villain origin with a sweet, soulmate-like romance and its dark faecore aesthetics. I would recommend this book to fans of:
🌿Soul mates / destined to be
🌿Disney or Once Upon a Time
Interested in this book? You can pick up your copy below, or learn more about the author by visiting her author site.