I may have library-voice squealed and done a happy-dance in place when I chanced upon The Malice stocked in Chapters. I immediately grabbed the most unsullied copy from the back of the pile, ran in a very stately manner to my husband, and shoved it in his face out of happiness.
I finished Peter Newman’s previous book, The Vagrant, a mere three-and-a-half months ago, and gave that a 5/5, so this was an obvious YES I NEED IT purchase.
We re-visit Newman’s post-apocalyptic landscape through the eyes of a young woman, and an even younger goat, on a journey to make their demon-infested, grotesque world a better place.
The ancient sword called the Malice, is eager to be wielded once more, and when weary hands prove unwilling, the Malice finds younger pliable hands to take their place. The source of the demonic invasion, The Breach, stirs fitfully. It threatens to unleash the most massive demon presence yet, and if world wants to survive, the Breach must be closed.
Here enters Vesper and her baby goat.
Setting off, her father’s jacket hangs awkwardly, bundled at her hands, the sword’s weight almost too much to lift, but she carries them both with pride. Vesper’s idealistic, almost naive, perspective on a world steeped in desperation, selfishness, and demon-creatures seeps out like delicate watercolour to the places and people she runs into. As the reader journeys with Vesper through cities and characters met in The Vagrant, we shift from bleak to hopeful, from hard-set expectations to softening understanding. The settings and characters she intersects with are complex:
- populaces happily brain-washed into conformity
- a plague targeting one race in an explosively divided city
- degrading mental health
- conflicting senses of defining what makes you yourself
- diluted ethics versus holding to what you believe to be right and true
Make no mistake, the consequences of this bleak world are just as real. Hurts, impossible choices, and sacrifices tamp this young girl into a vibrant character who lives out of her values and willingly suffers to turn those values into reality. At the end of it all, her father’s jacket fits more snugly across her shoulders and the sword is a comfortable, belonging weight. Vesper’s gleam of innocence is not tarnished, but burnished by the end into what readers only glimpsed at the beginning of the novel.
Between the perspectives of Vesper, the goat, her Harmonized companion, and a demon-infused knight, I was never bored with the characters or wished the plot would move faster. Each got the time and pacing they needed to reveal themselves and push boundaries as characters, and the chapters were equally harrowing and thrilling. Newman’s writing style of clean prose with pinpointed (and sometimes disturbingly strange) descriptions shone brilliantly.
The Malice is a dark and hopeful telling of vast tensions being mended with an open hand and of the toll of trying to change the world.
Again, I give Newman’s work a 5/5.