ARC review – Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Caidyn's review (1)

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)

I received this from Edelweiss and HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5

CW: sexism, forced marriage, human experimentation, cutting (for blood magic), execution, starvation/not eating, and burning at the stake


I was completely blown away by this debut! When I went into this, I was pretty sure that it would be a good book but damn! Apparently, this year is all about debut authors shocking me by how amazing their stories are. This is on the upper-edge of YA — I’d say 16-18 — and I was so here for it. Alternately, I was laughing and on the edge of my seat. Sometimes at the same time, honestly.

This book follows Louise (Lou) le Blanc and Captain Reid Diggory. Lou is a witch from a very important lineage who is trying to escape from her life with her best friend, Coco, who is a blood witch. Reid is a Chasseur, or a part of the Church. And he kind of burns witches at the stake from time to time. And works for people who do a bit of human experimentation. You know how it is. Common stuff, every day stuff, right?

It’s set in a fictionalized France and I loved it. It was so much fun to read it while keeping in mind all that I know about France. This France hates witches. Hates them so much and will do anything to get rid of them. It’s rather sexist, admittedly, going with the belief that a woman becomes her husband’s property.

But the world was so rich and developed. I could really get a feel for it and place it in my head. Sometimes the world is the hardest thing for me to get down because they can blend together. This one stood out, which I really loved. I could keep it straight in my mind despite all of the moving parts — Lou’s old life and those connected with it, the people she’s with now, the Church, etc.

And that plot? So damn fast-paced. It was a whirlwind to read and I kept wondering exactly where it was going towards, even though I had an idea of where it might end up. It kept me wondering because it was so broad. There were little things here and there that would catch my attention as a reader, then the story would come back to the story/ending that we were being worked to.

The biggest win for me with this book was the trope that it had running through its veins. Enemies, although Reid doesn’t know who/what Lou is. They just don’t like each other. Lou is very boisterous and opinionated and loves a song about Big Tiddy Liddy. (Not joking there.) Reid is reserved, quiet, pious. He takes his church vows very seriously. Doesn’t curse and finds her horrifying, although he doesn’t agree with some of the church’s mandates.

Even better, it’s a forced marriage. They are forced to get married and, from there, start realizing they like each other more than they should since, you know, they should hate each other. I felt my aura enrich and grow, and my grey hairs slowly turn back to brown by reading this trope.

It’s so hard to get right, too. Because if you go too fast, it’s not believable that they really hated each other at all or there was any bit of force at all to get them married. Go too slow and it wears at my patience. Mahurin was like Goldilocks. She got it just right for me and what I didn’t even know that I wanted.

Really, what else do I have to say to convince you to give this witchy, twisty book a try? I preordered it when I was around 30% in because I knew that I had to get my hands on a finished copy because this was just so much fun to read. Definitely a favorite of this year!


Talk to me!
Have you read this one? Is it now on your TBR?
What’s your favorite book that has a forced marriage in it?