Series: Serpent & Dove #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 3, 2019
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Young Adult, Romance, Action & Adventure
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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.
Serpent & Dove sends readers into a historical, fantastical France setting where the triumphant Chasseurs protect the people from the flames of witchcraft, while the witches are hunted and sworn to secrecy. This book ended up being darker than I expected, but I ultimately REALLY enjoyed the atmosphere and world that Mahurin created. Being a whopping 500+ pages, Serpect & Dove is no light read, but it sends readers into an imaginative fantasy where morals are gray and characters have to learn that the hard way. There are several things that Mahurin does well in this debut, and I’ll highlight them in this review – aka why I gave this book a glowing 4.5 stars!
Slow-Burn, Tension-Filled Romance
A witch and a witch hunter bound in holy matrimony. There was only one way such a story could end – a stake and a match.
If you know me, ya KNOW I value how the romantic relationships are done in stories. Is it well-written? Does it fit the rest of the plot? Is it insta-love or an unnecessary love triangle? Etc al. I’m happy to report that the main romance in Serpent & Dove is outstanding, well-integrated into the plot, and features the BEST enemies-to-lovers relationship I’ve read in a while. The story is told between two first person POV’s: Louise, or Lou, a witch who is curiously on the run, and Reid, an obstinate Chasseur who is zealously religious and set in his ways. Lou has a sparkling personality that just shines through the pages. She’s crass, brash, loud, and unapologetic. Readers can tell she’s gone through a lot, and some of her antics are laugh-out-loud funny. Granted, sometimes her brash attitude may be too over-the-top at times (making her unlikable these times), but nobody’s character is perfect and she also recognizes it. Reid, on the other hand, is a very strict individual who has a rigid regime – one where no foul-mouthed witch can break… or can they? He’s the type of person who is stubborn with his beliefs (with reason, as well), and throughout the story he finds these beliefs unraveling, making him start to question who he really is, and what exactly he’s fighting for. In the beginning, it was really challenging, trying to see how these two would get along. But Mahurin writes their development (both as characters and romantically) exceptionally well, in this enemies-to-lovers, slow-burn romance. I think it’s a plus that the whole premise of their relationship is an arranged marriage where her marriage to him will save his appearance, making for a fun ride.
Subtle Feminist Language and Empowerment
‘There are lots of women in pubs, Ansel. We aren’t like you think. We can do anything you can do – and probably better.’
Since the setting is in a historical, fantasy-like France, there is an inherent patriarchy woven into the world that is always subtly challenged. I love how the writing isn’t in-your-face about the women empowerment, but rather, the message can be seen through the seemingly small actions and dialogue of the powerful women characters in the book. Even side characters like Coco are lively and leap off the pages, and I just adored this small aspect of the story. The main plotline really focuses around the secrets Lou keeps, and her goal to stay safe under the protection of the Church, while coming into terms with her very stern husband. But safety is the least of their worries when the witches are planning something threatening the royal bloodline, and Lou ends up being a vital player in the game.
Exceptionally Developed Characterizations and Storyline
Each side despicable – a twisted perversion of what should’ve been. Each side suffering. Each side capable of great evil.
And then there was me.
And now we get to the developed characters (which I discussed above) and storyline. What a WILD story that was. The twists got me re-reading sections several times, and I found myself being slapped, whipped, and busted because of the words coming out of the pages. Seriously y’all, as dramatic as some of these plot twists are, they’re also essential to the story and will leave you breathless. The climax was fulfilling, and the open ending left room for the sequel, while also satisyfing readers with what has been revealed – and what will still come – between the characters and the safety/security they’re reaching for. Either way, it’s a wild adventure with fabulous characters that you’ll come to love.
I wanted him. All of him. We could make it work. We could write our own ending, witch and witch hunter be damned. We could be happy.
Serpent & Dove was a triumphant debut! It’s certainly very dark, and explores themes such as oppression, discrimination, and hiding behind lines of black and white, but overall it made for an action-filled read with everything I love in my books: morally-complex characters, scorching romances, and an intense plot full of twists that kept me on the edge of my seat. I really recommend this book for lovers of fantasy who would appreciate a darker, more cruel world with characters that survive despite all odds. If you’re ready for your views to be shaken and your imagination to run rampant, Serpent & Dove is the book for you.
Content/Trigger Warnings: intense violence, cutting and self harm, sexy times (vague descriptions), physical abuse/assult, blood/gore, sexism
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you HarperCollins Australia and Edelweiss for the review copy!
Serpent & Dove is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99 or from The Book Depository.
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