Serena’s Review: “Serpent & Dove”

40024139Book: “Serpent & Dove” by Shelby Mahurin

Publishing Info: HarperTeen, September 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: 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.

Review: Have to get all of these books that were so popular last fall in before their sequels drop this summer/fall! But one more down! I didn’t know much about this book when I placed my audiobook request other than the fact that a few of my YA librarian friends had said it was super popular last fall when it came out. So like a good little YA fan, I placed my request without much more thought. So I really had no idea what to expect when I actually got the book, so the whole thing was an interesting surprise (I never even looked at the book description until after the fact). While it didn’t blow me away, I can see why it was so popular and I’m definitely interested to see what the sequel has to offer this September!

Living undercover as a witch in hiding means Lou’s life is one of constantly looking over her shoulder and being suspicious of everyone. In a world where all women are under constant scrutiny, under threat of death by fire for being a witch, Lou must be particularly careful. But in a comedy or tragedy of errors and crossed paths, Lou suddenly finds herself in the viper’s nest itself: making her home among her enemies and married to a Chasseur, a witch hunter. Now both she, and Reid who was raised to strictly believe the evil at the heart of all of witches, must confront what they really know about the opposite side. And as their feelings for each other grow, will these differences prove detrimental?

You don’t really see too many “forced marriage” plots outside of fanfiction and romance novels, so it was definitely interesting seeing this book’s attempt to use this trope in a more mainstream YA fantasy novel. And overall, I think it was very successful. The set-up for their marriage was believable, and because the book is told through alternating perspectives, readers are able to watch the slow change and progression of feelings on both sides. Of course, it’s still all told over one book’s length, and not an uncommonly long one at that, so I do feel that the romance itself came on a bit quickly. But I also felt like the author did just enough to lay the groundwork for these changes and given her characters the room and opportunity to believably begin changing their minds about one another.

As with all stories that feature multiple POVs, I had a preference for one over the other. But in this case it wasn’t because I felt that one was more strongly written than the other; both perspectives felt grounded and believable. But Reid was definitely a bit harder to empathize with. Over the course of the book, we begin to see more of what shapes his belief system, but it’s always going to be a hard sell to be in the head of a male character who thinks burning women at the stake is a good idea. He obviously comes around, but there are some definite moments where I just wanted to smack him.

Lou, on the other hand, is your kind of standard YA heroine: strong, feisty, and independent. She didn’t blow me away as anything incredibly original, but her dialogue, both in her POV sections and in Reid’s, was always great and had some really funny bits to it. She disappears a bit towards the end of the book, and this did make that section a bit more challenging to get through. But luckily by that time Reid is coming around again and is able to take over for the most part.

There were quite a few twists and surprises throughout the book. As a reader of a lot of YA fantasy, I was able to see almost all of these coming, but that didn’t make them less enjoyable, really. And, of course, this is the kind of thing that will hit different readers in different ways. Combined with the French-focused world-building and an interesting magic system, I felt like the story itself felt fairly fresh and new.

This is the first book in what I believe is a trilogy, so the end of the book is by no means a proper “ending.” But given the fact that the next book is coming out in September, if you, like me, haven’t gotten around to this one yet, you won’t have a long wait fo

Rating 8: A solid start to a new series that will hopefully grow into something even better.

Reader’s Advisory: 

“Serpent & Dove” is on these Goodreads lists: “Characters Hate Each Other Then Fall In Love” and “Epic High Fantasy/Romance/Mythology by 2020.”

Find “Serpent & Dove” at your library using WorldCat!

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