Tordotcom: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Poison Priestess

This YA historical thriller about a real French serial killer who dabbled in the occult bleeds with luscious language and commentary about the patriarchy's stifling power.

In 17th-century Paris, 19-year-old Catherine Monvoisin leaves behind a childhood of servitude and poverty only to marry a man who "spends his jeweler's income like water." Catherine would rather die than be poor again, so she uses her special "sight" to earn a living as a fortune-teller. Soon, she becomes the official sorceress of the Marquise de Montespan, a noblewoman who seeks the affections of King Louis XIV. Catherine enjoys profiting off the nobles at court, peddling them potions that inflict or lift "curses" she invents. It's all innocent trickery, until she pairs up with a magician who has a troubled past and a penchant for revenge. Catherine finds herself on a dangerous path of deception, destruction and murder.

In Poison Priestess, the second book in the Lady Slayers series, Lana Popovic (Blood Countess) recalls the real-life story of a murderess while exploring the society that created her. Without justifying Catherine's crimes, she ably uses examples of oppression--like Catherine marrying one man to release her from being indentured to another--to help readers sympathize. Popovic augments Catherine's story with queer romance and evocative language--"a shifting sea of snakes... seethe around me.... As if I am some dark pupil, floating in the center of a colossal iris"--resulting in a vivid and lurid novel. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader