Til death do us part.
The hotly anticipated sequel to the New York Times and IndieBound bestseller Serpent & Dove—packed with even steamier romance and darker magic—is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.
After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.
To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.
Warning: while this review doesn’t contain spoilers for Blood and Honey, it does feature some serious spoilers for Serpent and Dove.
So, I have some seriously mixed feelings about Blood and Honey.
After reading Serpent and Dover earlier this year, Blood and Honey was high on my most anticipated reads. And reading it was my first priority when my copy finally shipped [coronavirus delays did me dirty – even after pre-ordering].
But here’s the tea – Blood and Honey suffers from second book syndrome. There’s just no way to sugar-coat it. The religious undertones and feminist themes dissipated as the crew scoured the countryside looking for allies. And unfortunately, it felt like that obligatory filler book where not a lot happens.
That said, I still really enjoyed Blood and Honey. I just wasn’t blown away, like I’d originally expected.
Blood and Honey picks up right where Serpent and Dove left off. Lou, Reid, Ansel, Coco, Beau and Madame Labelle are hiding underneath the canopy of the La Fôret des Yeux after fleeing the Chateau. Right of the bat, Shelby draws you in with witty bantering and bickering as Lou attempts to cook bread over the camp oven. But don’t expect a recap – I would highly recommend brushing up on Serpent and Dove before starting Blood and Honey.
And the interlude doesn’t last long – only enough time to find your bearings before we’re thrust into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with Morgane.
What I loved about Blood and Honey was how Shelby handled the changing dynamic between Lou and Reid. Each character struggled with their own personal demons and it created some truly delicious drama. The tension between Lou and Reid was almost suffocating and Shelby did an amazing job of making it feel authentic. Their conflict never felt forced or unrealistic – relationships are messy.
Reid is reeling from the choice he made in saving Lou’s life, and grappling with his own emerging power. And his response was 100% justified. I mean, he’s becoming the very thing he was taught to despise. That’s bound to come with a shit ton of baggage. Reid’s denial and confusion felt natural – even if I wanted to knock his head together a couple of times.
Then we have Lou’s descent into darkness as she explores the limits of her thread magic… Let’s just say that Lou spirals. A lot. And their relationship suffers for it – hello angst!
In terms of writing and plot, Shelby has this beautifully simplistic writing style which you just sort of fall into. The pages fly by easily. I also love how Shelby weaves her world building into her dialogue – her prose isn’t weighed down by exposition. But a minor issue I had with Blood and Honey was its pacing, which felt a little off. We’d be hurtling ahead then hit a lull, the pace becoming sluggish before Shelby thrust us back into the action. It felt choppy and I wish it were just that little bit smoother and consistent.
As for plot, I can’t pretend I was blown away. Like I said, Blood and Honey felt very much like a filler book after the duology was stretched to a trilogy. The complexity of the plot dwindled down to Gathering Allies™, a plot device featured in almost every fantasy series ever. That said, it did give Shelby the opportunity to expand her world and introduce some new characters.
Speaking of new characters, I need to take a moment to highlight Claud and his travelling troupe which was honestly the MVP of Blood and Honey. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I LOVE GYPSY SUBPLOTS AND CARAVANS! The romance of living on the road, the eccentric characters – I basically LIVE for it. Claud became this sort of father figure – he was so lively and supportive. I also loved how he and Beau worked to keep things light, easing some of the emotional turmoil.
But despite the new characters and changing dynamics, Serpent and Dove was definitely the stronger book. Blood and Honey lacked the complexity I’d come to expect from Shelby’s world. Despite Lou’s descent, Serpent and Dove had a much darker tone and the stakes felt higher. And while Blood and Honey sets the stage for an emotional, intense showdown between Lou and Morgane, I’ll be lowering my expectations for the final installment.