In Tess of the Road the main character Tess is recovering from a catastrophic downfall after being seduced and abandoned. Although she tries to redeem herself, all is lost when she ruins her twin sister Jeanne's wedding by drunkenly punching the groom. Disguising herself as a boy, she hits the road to help her childhood friend, a quigutl dragon, find a legendary serpent. Along the way she must pose as a priest, work as a manual laborer and fend off robbers, as she slowly makes peace with her past. At first bitter and self-pitying, Tess ultimately shows her worth through her courage, resilience and empathy. Her triumphant quest to find the serpent allows her to begin to reenter society in this tale of female empowerment. The first in a duology, this novel sets the stage for further adventures on the road.
Between the Blade and the Heart, the first in the Valkyrie duology, introduces Malin, a Valkyrie-in-training, whose job it is to slay immortals and return them to the afterlife. When she discovers that her mentor/mother failed to carry out an assignment, resulting in the death of a fellow Valkyrie, Malin joins her son Archer to find the culprit and kill him. Malin's roommate Oona, a sorceress-in-training, and her ex-girlfriend Quinn come along for the ride. The story is immersed in Norse mythology and includes many fascinating creatures, making this novel heavy on world-building, but not lacking in action and romance. The obligatory love triangle has a new twist in that Malin is bisexual. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers thrilled that the sequel From the Earth to the Shadows, comes out April 24, 2018.
In The Belles the God of the Sky in the opulent world of Orleans becomes jealous of the Goddess of Beauty's love for their children, so he curses them with ugliness. She in retaliation creates the Belles, who have magical powers allowing them to transform people's ugliness. Camellia and her 5 sisters are Belles who have just finished their training and are about to enter society. A contest is held to determine which one will get to serve in the royal household. Although not chosen at first, Camellia ultimately ends up in the palace, where she finds the crown princess in a coma and her younger sister obsessed with power. As Camellia struggles to unravel the political plot, she uncovers the secret to the Belle's origin in a culture obsess with beauty. This novel challenges readers to think about their own ideas of beauty and what women go through financially and physically to attain it. The Belles, as well as the other two novels reviewed, are most appropriate for mature readers.