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When I first read about Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin in the Harper360 newsletter I knew there and then that I needed to read it, and that I would love it. Particularly as it was tagged “for fans of Sarah J. Maas“. A witch and a witch hunter forced to come together? How could I possibly say no! Huge thanks to Harper360 for sending me an advanced copy of the book, and today I’m sharing with you all my spoiler free review of this wonderfully witchy debut.
In a world inspired by 17th century France, an ancient war between witches and Church still burns strong. Louise le Blanc left her coven and sought refuge in the city, suppressing her magic and stealing to stay alive. During a burglary gone awry Lou meets Reid, a Chasseur sworn to the Church to kill witches. After an altercation brings the two together into a forced marriage Lou can’t ignore the danger approaching them, or her growing feelings. But she knows what she is… and she knows what Reid does to people like her.
I was destined to love this book. There, I said it. It featured all of my favourite tropes, from enemies to lovers, to forbidden love, to forced marriage and ONE BED THAT THEY UNFORTUNATELY MUST SHARE. Dun dun dun…
Told in dual perspective, we hear the story from both our main characters Louise, or Lou as she is known, and Reid. Lou is sarcastic, self sufficient, brave, cunning and clever and just gets shit done. Reid is the perfect blend of innocent, not innocent, strong willed, devout and protective, who spent a lot of time coming to the realisation that the ideals that had been instilled in him for most of his life may not be strictly true, or right. Both compliment each other perfectly!
I’ve actually seen reviews comparing Lou to early Celeana and Reid to Jamie from Outlander and actually, I agree! However lol at that pairing.
Both Ansel and Coco as secondary characters felt so fleshed out and that they hadn’t just been inserted in the story in order to further our main character’s development. They both had their own arcs and things to overcome. Ansel is actually one of my favourite characters from the book overall! I loved seeing his friendship with Lou grow throughout the story, despite being on Reid’s “side”. He helped her, stuck up for her and he was just everything. I also particularly enjoyed the focus on healthy female friendships with Lou and Coco. No spite, no inane jelousy, just two good female friends.
Sometimes you may think of witches and into your mind pops the ‘witch closing the trap door holding an apple’ scene from Snow White. Well these witches are so much more well developed and interesting. With an intriguing magic system, all witches bear their gifts (or curses depending on who you ask!) differently to serve different purposes.
I believe this to be a ‘morally grey’ book personally. With the main focus of the story on the battle between the church and witches, I felt as though there were no clear bias on either side, as though the author did not want to say “this one is good and the other is bad”. Both sides did atrocious things, but there was good too. Interesting!
The story was packed with visual and satisfying storytelling, accompanied with rich world building. It was so easy to picture each scene which always ends up in me enjoying a book so much more! Serpent & Dove was fast paced and never once boring despite being 500+ pages long.
The discussions surrounding women in society at this time were interesting for sure. In particular, how women are viewed due to the church and its messages. Lou also quotes the Holy Book and asks whether she is Reid’s property as his wife which raises some important questions between the pair.
Serpent & Dove felt both character and plot driven, with development in both areas. A high stakes, fast paced story aided by characters who go through a lot and come out the other end with more understanding and appreciation of the other side which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I devoured the book in one day while on holiday earlier this year, and while some aspects of the story were predictable it was thoroughly enjoyable and I didn’t guess everything! I definitely feel as though I want to re-read the story to fully appreciate it though.
There was no cliffhanger per se which I was happy about and I am definitely excited for the second book. I can’t believe I have to wait basically a year to read the next instalment, especially considering that I read the first in July!
Serpent & Dove was published on 3rd of September so you can get your hands on it now! If you’re still not convinced whether this book is for you, don’t just take my word for it. You only have to look at Goodreads to see how many people loved it. A personal favourite is a quote from ElliasReads “HOLY FUCK. *deceased*. So go… read it!
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