Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all
AHHHHHHHHHH, THIS BOOK WAS FREAKING PHENOMINAL – I’M SO MAD AT MYSELF FOR NOT READING THIS SOONER! LIKE, WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO BUY INTO THE HYPE??? HOLY
SHIT – I’M OBSESSED.
Okay, now I’ve got THAT out of my system let’s try to be coherent about this review, shall we?
At this stage, I’m probably the last human alive to read Shelby Mahurin’s debut novel. But, you know, no surprises there – I’m a seriously stubborn reader. The thing is, Serpent and Dove was EVERYWHERE when it released late last year. Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE was reading this book. Suffice to say, I was intimidated by the immense hype and perfectly content to just keep swimming.
Big mistake. Big. HUGE.
Please, PLEASE don’t let the witchery [witches just aren’t my thing, okay?] or the hype put you off because dang, if this wasn’t one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Serpent and Dove is a dark and complex novel about ignorance, prejudice and tolerance with some seriously heavy religious overtones. Shelby Mahurin really examines faith and the murky morals of both the Church and Paganism in an alternate historical France. There’s violence, sex, swearing and a whole lot of badassery and I was so freaking here for it. A YA fantasy bordering on New Adult, I was LIVING for this enemies-turned-lovers romance between a witch and a witch hunter.
First of all, I basically worshiped Lou. I mean, she’s downright feral – a heathen. As a thief – and witch – living on the sly, Lou is unapologetically vulgar and independent, comfortable in her sexuality. Basically a true feminist, Lou swears, sings bawdy, inappropriate pub songs and doesn’t conform to 17th century ideals of femininity. She’s sassy, cleaver and crass with a wicked sense of humor. Pun intended.
Then we have Reid – pretty much Lou’s polar opposite. As Chassur of the Church, Reid is disciplined and strict in his faith.
He’s also a bit of a prude. He’s serious, honorable and noble – I loved watching him squirm as Lou coaxed him out of his almost naive morals.
But what I loved about Serpent and Dove is the fact that it’s dual POV which made for some seriously delicious tension between our two protagonists and the chance to delve into both sides. There’s some serious Hunchback-esque commentary on the deeply misogynistic idea that women are intimately tied to Satan. You know – that misguided notion of women as the wicked temptress and Satan’s accomplice.
Also, we’re 100% talking about the sex scene because I really appreciated Shelby Mahurin’s focus on consent. Like – YES!!! Also I loved how gender stereotypes were challenged. I mean, guys can be fumbling virgins too, okay? The scene isn’t overly explicit, rather portrayed as a natural experience between a consenting husband and wife. It feels authentic too, Shelby doesn’t shy away from highlighting those beautifully awkward, moments. It’s not always perfect and painless the first time.
BUT, as obsessed as I am with these morally grey characters and the whole premise of Church Vs Paganism, Serpent and Dove wasn’t exactly a five star book.
If I’m being really picky, the world building wasn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. I couldn’t help but feel that setting Serpent and Dove in an alternate fantasy world was lazy writing. Considering the rich history of mass hysteria, revolution and witch trails, Serpent and Dove could have been elevated to epic status if it took place in actual France. I don’t believe it would have altered the magic system or plot – just add a deeper layer of complexity.
Speaking of the magic system, I feel that the whole blood witch/thread witch thing could have been a little more intricate. To be honest, I never wrapped my head around Lou’s powers which I’m hoping will be further developed in Blood and Honey.
Despite finding the world building to be slightly lacking, Serpent and Dove is a high-impact, complex novel with great characters and a dark Hunchback vibe. While it might be an older YA fantasy, Serpent and Dove tackles a lot of hard-hitting themes, exploring religion, feminism and tolerance. And, if that doesn’t sell it to you? I’ve got four little worlds: The One Bed Trope™. 😉