Are you ever in the middle of a book and it hits you that you never want it to end? You are caught in this weird middle land of wanting to read faster and faster but at the same time contemplating putting the book down so you may live in that world a little bit longer? I have read a few books throughout my life that made me feel this way – namely when I first discovered Harry Potter around the age of eight. My mother had bought me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a 14-hour road trip. By hour seven we were pulling off the interstate to swing into a Walmart to pick up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and a portable light so I could continue my journey.
Another that comes to mind is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. I discovered Throne of Glass soon after it released and read the series each as they came out, anxiously awaiting the next book’s arrival. When Kingdom of Ash was released last fall, it truly felt as if I was saying goodbye to old friends. I needed to know how it ended but wanted to savor this world that had meant so much just a little longer.
Well, I can now add Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin to that list. While I love a lot of books that have come out in the last several years, Serpent & Dove is on another level. It has truly been awhile since I have been so enraptured in a book. For a debut book especially, it is out of this world.
Serpent & Dove starts out by introducing us to one of our main characters, Louise Le Blanc or ‘Lou’ – a young witch who fled her coven to stay alive. She is on the run, seeking shelter in an unfriendly city that is attempting to eradicate magic and burning all witches. She’s left to beg, borrow, and steal (mainly the latter) to get by without her magic. As for her character, she is a feisty woman whose personality reminds me of a cross between Celaena/Aelin from Throne of Glass or Lila Bard from V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic. She knows how to get herself in and out of danger and always has something witty to say.
One thing I have learned about my preferences when it comes to female protagonists, I gravitate towards smart-mouthed, strong women who take pleasure in bucking tradition and Lou gives me all that I look for in spades. Even in the most desperate of situations she moves forward with an incredible amount of swagger and bravado that makes you love her even more.
On one of her misadventures she crashes into Reid Diggory, our second main character. Reid is part of the Chasseurs, huntsmen of the Church and leaders of those who want to eradicate witches and, of course, is the exact opposite of Lou. He prides himself on his commitment to the principle ‘Thou shall not suffer a witch to live’, and he is also a fairly uptight, duty-bound man. Most importantly he is loyal to the people he loves and the causes he believes in (even if they are maybe misplaced).
Through a few misadventures, this unlikely pair ends up being forced to wed. A witch hunter and a witch – a match made in heaven or hell? This is classic enemy to lovers’ stuff – which is one of my all-time favorite tropes. As expected, even though the pair are polar opposites, feelings grow and both must make the decision about where their devotions lie and what they are willing to sacrifice in the name of love.
This book left me with such a hangover. I was not ready to leave its warm embrace. From the banter, writing style and the way Shelby made such a dark book, lighthearted.
An overarching theme of the book is challenging prejudices and pre-conceived notions on what is right and wrong. Through Lou and Reid’s romance and the rotating cast of secondary characters, you see that maybe all witches are not bad, and maybe all Chasseurs are not either. In my opinion, it is quite reflective of current culture. Media today wants to tell us that XYZ group of people are all bad, but when you get down to human to human interaction, that is absolutely never the case. It is a lot easier to ‘hate’ a whole group of people until you humanize them and understand each and every one of the individuals in a group has their own hopes, dreams and personality. It is refreshing to see this growing problem addressed in a fantastical way in mainstream books.
Honestly though, what I loved most about this book was the characters and their romance. As I have mentioned Throne of Glass several times in this blog post, I will admit that I hold an unpopular opinion in that I loved Celaena and Chaol together. While many fans of that series would consider it sacrilegious, I found their banter and how they tested each other’s boundaries quite entertaining. Lou and Reid have many shades of what Celaena and Chaol could have been.
For example, Lou is constantly stepping across the lines that Reid draws in the sand – like his aversion to cussing and bawdiness. A reoccurring reference in the book is Lou singing the bar song ‘Big Tiddy Liddy’. While we only get a few lines of this what I am sure is a hilarious tune, Lou uses it to make Reid quite uncomfortable in several scenarios.
Their romance is also full of sexual tension mostly from the start. If you are anything like me, sometimes the tension and the lead up is the best part. There is no shortage of steamy, tension-filled moments in this book.
While the romance was an undeniably huge part of this book – there is an outside/overarching plot. The witches are attempting to reclaim the city, in which Lou plays a critical, albeit unwilling, role. On the other side the Chasseurs are conducting magical experiments and burning every witch they come in contact with in an attempt to eradicate witches once and for all. While this strife does come to a bit of a head at the end – we are still left on a bit of a cliff hanger and I am hotly anticipating the second in the duology, Blood & Honey.
I cannot say enough about this book. I could go on and on – but if you love a fast-paced, easy read full of magic, wittiness, and a hot romance please move this to the top of your TBR pile!