Book Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

by Jia

Author: Shelby Mahurin

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins

Rating: ★★★★

Book Summary:

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.

I’m sure this is one of the best books I have read this year. It’s one of those books that are so good and leave you so absolutely mind-blown that you don’t want to pick up another book for a long while after. The writing in this book was amazing, I felt as if I was right there along with the characters. The book is set in a French-inspired world and there are a few French words sprinkled throughout. This does a beautiful job at building the atmosphere of the book.

Serpent & Dove is a story about witches and witch hunters – our two main characters belonging to each category. Louise le Blanc, for reasons you’d have to read the book to find out, fled her home and has been on the run living as a thief for two years. She lives in the city of Cesarin with her best friend Coco. Magic is banned, witches are hunted, and Lou must not let her secret out. She has stopped practicing magic and is trying to live a normal life away witchhood. But what happens when her path crosses that of a witch hunter? The Chasseur are the witch hunters of the kingdom, led by the Archbishop. Having raised Reid Diggory, an orphan, as his own son, the Archbishop’s aggressive views against the witches are passed down to him. As Captain of the Chasseur, Reid takes his job very, very seriously. Vehemently so. He loathes witches, as he has grown up thinking they are an abomination and the spawn of the devil, the source of all evil – you get my point. When Lou and Reid are forced into an unfortunate situation and scandal, the two are presented an arrangement that could ultimately prove mutually beneficial – matrimony.

Lou and Reid are married off and now Lou must try ever harder to keep her secret hidden. Her reason for agreeing to the marriage is selfish at first, but her growing feelings for Reid complicate things for her. A lot. It doesn’t help that there is an age old feud between their two worlds and that a war is brewing. The romance between the two is angsty and sweet at the same time, and I know a few people thought it was a bit too insta-love, but I personally loved it. The two are so different from each other in every way and it really frustrates both of them – if you love the enemies to lovers trope, you will definitely enjoy this book. Whereas Reid is proper and formal, Lou is anything but. She is not afraid to voice her thoughts, and unapologetically says whatever comes to her mind. She’s not afraid to call Reid out on his shit either, and this leaves him exasperated often in the book. If anything, you should read Serpent & Dove for Lou’s quips alone – I promise you they won’t disappoint. The banter between the two is one of the best parts of the book, in my opinion. 

The side characters are equally as great. Coco is a badass woman and is so protective of Lou, as is Ansel (who kind of reminded me of Nico from Da Vinci’s Demons). I loved seeing their friendship, and how much they cared for one another. I cannot wait to see more of them in the next book, which, to be honest, I don’t know how I’m going to wait for. There are many more side characters that I loved but won’t talk about in fear of spoiling the book. But if you love books with a close group of friends, definitely pick this one up. They all add to the story in their own unique way and I’m sure you’d fall in love with them as I did. 

Serpent & Dove is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year and I am so excited to read the next part of the story. However, there are some problematic things in this book that I feel I should address. There is fatphobia in this book, and one of the only fat characters in this book is described in a very negative and derogatory way, which was totally unnecessary. There is also transphobic language in how ‘women’ are addressed. The characters of colours are also described badly compared to the white characters, such as describing Black witches as ‘ebony’. Sex workers are also described very negatively, and I know some people think that according to the time period the book is set in it isn’t out of place, but I think we could have done without the way the author described them. These are all serious and valid points that have been brought up by other readers as well, and I hope Shelby Mahurin takes this opportunity to learn and do better in the next book. 

I caught her hand and squeezed — a warning mitigated by my burning cheeks. “We’ll dispatch men to interrogate these enemies, but first, we need to know everything that happened that night.” I paused despite myself, ignoring my brothers’ furious mutters. “Please.”

A truly frightening grin split her face.

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