Mistress of Evil is precisely the book I wanted from the villain’s tales series: it had everything – an intriguing backstory; familiar characters as well as new ones who were pivotal to the plot; and of course, magic.
I couldn’t put this book down and I am so relieved that I can finally be super positive for the first time since Fairest of All.
Mistress of Evil takes place immediately after Poor Unfortunate Soul (these books have an order for a reason people!) and, with the odd sisters temporarily out of action, we learn that Maleficent must appeal to Circe and Nanny for assistance with a spell. However, it is soon revealed that Nanny, Maleficent and the odd sisters share a history.
What I loved most about this book is that Valentino spends a lot of time in Maleficent’s backstory, and it was evident that she took a lot of pride in the younger fairy she created. Maleficent is not 100% bad. Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t 100% good either, but the reader witnesses the circumstances that have made her this way. We observe abandonment, bullying and rejection but overall we witness prejudice against someone who is different and I feel it is this that really humanises Maleficent.
Familiar characters are also introduced; namely Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Now, Merryweather has always been my favourite of the three fairies: something about her sarcastic and feisty personality calls to me. However, young Merryweather is a bit of a cow and, although I didn’t want to, I loved this twist. As usual, Valentino’s world is not black and white: if the good fairies had always been good, events may have turned out very differently.
Snow and her mother also play a role in the progression of the underlying story throughout all these tales: the one of the odd sisters. It wasn’t a complete surprise that Valentino brings one of her previous characters into the story, after all each tale has led into the next. However, it was really interesting to meet Queen Snow and glimpse at her life since we left her in Fairest of All. Also, a book from the odd sisters that possibly binds all our heroes and villains together is pure genius- particularly for someone who was obsessed with Once Upon a Time.
The level of detail in Valentino’s writing is superb. You can really picture the village in which Maleficent was raised- an experience that I haven’t felt in the previous tales. She also doesn’t neglect Aurora just because she is asleep but creates a dream world of mirrors that for some reason conjured images of Labyrinth for me. I also appreciated that, although snippets of the original story are included, they are just snippets- not a retelling.
I think it’s pretty clear that I loved this book. It wasn’t perfect (I still just don’t “get” Tulip and Popinjay and the timing at the start of the book was confusing) but it was pretty close! A prequel to Sleeping Beauty, complete with a fairy school, tree lords, dream worlds and fallouts that would make Jeremy Kyle wince? What more could you want?
A MASSIVE twist? You got it! I always knew no-one would be that angry over not being invited to a christening….