Review: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

40024139Two 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

4.5 Stars


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™. 😉


22 thoughts on “Review: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

    • KAY – YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK BECAUSE AHHHHHH, THE HUNCHBACK VIBES ARE EVERYTHING!!! [Seriously Lou is basically a witchy version of Esmeralda].

      Also the tension between Lou and Reid is so steamy and swoony – I was 100% on board from page one. 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  1. YES!!!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. Now we can gush about it and the sequel to come. The lack of world building really went over my head when I read this but I totally see why some people are disappointed by the world, it definitely could’ve done more to have been innovative. Also, the one bed trope never gets old for me 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohmygosh – I am TRASH for the One Bed Trope! Absolute TRASH! Like – the will-they-won’t-they tension is amazing. 😉

      I feel like the world building wouldn’t have bothered most people but you know me – I’m all about the world! Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a huge issue for me, I just couldn’t help but wish is was historical. Oh well! 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I need to read this! I’m obsessed with witchy books atm and I also love enemies to lovers. I love that it is a dual POV. I will definitely have to read it. Great review

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this book. Yess, I loved the swapped gender roles, it felt so realistic to finally see a woman who was confident with herself! I’m really keen to learn more about the magic and world in blood and honey

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right? I was like FINALLY! 🙌🙌🙌 Whoever said that women should be seen and not heard can go take a long walk off a short pier. 😉

      Me too, I’m hoping the magic system and wold building is a little better fleshed out. And it’s not long to go now! Ahhh, I’m so excited! 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review, thank you! I own the book but have heard a lot of mixed things about it so I’ve put off starting you. You make me want to pick it up soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can understand why you’d be a little put off – I was so intimidated by Serpent and Dove’s immense hype. Especially because it’s rare that hyped books actually live up to my expectations. I’m happy to report that Serpent and Dove really is as amazing as everyone says. If you loved that darker vibe of Disney’s the Hunchback of Notre Dame then you’ll adore Serpent and Dove. 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, after reading this review, I’m pretty sure we might just be carbon copies of each other because our reading tastes are EXACTLY THE SAME. All the Stars and Teeth, These Broken Stars, To Kill a Kingdom, and now this amazing book!

    Like you, I’m not that into witches, but I still adored this book so much. I absolutely loved the characters, and the romance was just perfect. The enemies to lovers trope and one bed trope in the same book?! Ummmm, who could say no to that? I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel… Can it just be Septemeber already??? 😂

    Amazing review, Alexandra! ❤

    Liked by 1 person


      But it’s so true – we have freakishly similar tastes in books [and book boyfriends!]. Speaking of These Broken Stars, were you still down for a buddy read? [Don’t stress if you’re not 😉 ] I was thinking that I might continue with This Shattered World soon.

      I’m very on the fence when it comes to witches. I don’t mind them but I won’t actively seek them out? I feel like witchy books always have the same themes [sisterhood etc] so I find them to be slightly predictable. Lol unpopular opinion alert! BUT I ADORED Serpent and Dove – I might just come around to witches yet! Thank god September’s not too far off now! Can’t wait to rave about Blood and Honey with you!

      Thank you for reading, Octavia! 💙

      Liked by 1 person

      • Super excited for Blood & Honey! Another potential buddy read???

        Speaking of which, I’m still totally up for a buddy read of the rest of the Starbound trilogy. Sorry for the delay, I’ve been pushing TBS off for the past few weeks because I’ve had so many arcs to read. But I think I’m going to start it tonight! I’ll probably finish it by the end of the week, so I’ll keep you posted!

        Liked by 1 person


          And don’t apologize – I’ve been having WAY too much fun re-reading Warrior cats books [because what else would you do in 2020???]. There’s no rush but I was just looking at my shelf this morning and remembered the Starbound Trilogy. Let me know when you’re ready and I’m there! We can even start up an Insta chat [I can vicariously re-live These Broken Stars with you, LOL!]. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Rhi – it’s so nice to meet another fellow Aussie blogger! Thank you so much for stopping by! 💙

      Reading Serpent and Dove was 100% super fun. Especially because I am still trash for anything even remotely relating to enemies-to-lovers!

      Liked by 1 person

    • When you’re in the mood I think you’re really going to love Serpent and Dove! It’s got a much darker tone than your usual YA fantasy and the romance was super swoon-worthy! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts – happy reading. 💙

      Liked by 1 person

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