[Review] Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin

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(Shelby Mahurin, 2019)
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.

(via Goodreads)

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What I Liked

  • Witches
    • Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? I love me a good witch story (I mean I have to don’t I?). This one in particular does something that I LOVE with the topic (but I will address that a little later). I really liked and believed in the magic system, which is super important in my enjoyment of a book, especially fantasy which I notoriously have difficulty with. And these witches are bad ass! The two strains of magic really helped round things out too. The Dames Blances and Dames Rogue are both interesting in their own ways- Though I suppose I should warn some of you, one strain of witch is blood related and requires cutting to perform. I liked that good vs. evil wasn’t exactly black and white in this instance either. You can really see it from both perspectives but as in war, you shake your head at unnecessary violence where compromise would be much cleaner.
  • Setting
    • I love witch stories that feel vaguely historical. This one specifically has a French backdrop in like the 1600s or something similar. Women are second class, and treated as property under marriage. A man is within his right to discipline and control his wife if she “misbehaves” which really sets the stage for the story. That background makes it believable that people are overly suspicious of women, and often call them witches as an insult. Sadly, even in our own history there were a lot of people (especially those close to the church) who felt that witches were not only real, but evil. That vibe resonates in this book and really set the stage as a believable world, which in turn makes it easy to get immersed into. I think that’s why I love historical fiction so much; the ease in which you settle right into the story and can allow yourself to become fully immersed within it.
  • Characters
    • I liked a lot of these characters. Obviously the main ones (Lou and Reid) but surprisingly I loved Coco and Ansel as well. And truthfully, by the end, I really like Beau too. They were all so passionate and caring which makes it easy to root for. I loved Ansel especially because of his position and his loyalties.
  • Sexual Tension
    • Let’s just address the elephant in the room. I really really enjoyed the romance bits. I found the sexual tension between Reid and Lou to be utterly delicious. It left me on the edge of my seat, and just as frustrated as the characters. I especially loved Reid opening up and teasing Lou, pushing her buttons as she has pushed his from day one.

What I Disliked

  • Authenticity
    • Despite my love for this vaguely historical take, I did struggle a bit with it’s authenticity. I mean, at least in my opinion those times were very black or white. You loathed witches, and thought them evil. Women were expected to act a very specific way. While I loved Lou’s sass and vulgar personality, I found it slightly unbelievable given the circumstances. If she were desperately trying to hide from her coven, I just cannot see her drawing so much attention to herself by acting the way that she does. It’s one thing to be that way with Coco or even Bas, (who is another can of worms if you ask me) but its the same as how she acts toward everyone, and in that time period, her sexuality, that brashness, that language? It would have her accused of witchcraft a long time before any of this. To be fair, magic is much easier to prove in this world as opposed to reality, but I don’t know, it just made me think “really?” during a few parts in the book.

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Final Thoughts

Truthfully, I was really surprised by this book. I don’t typically do well with fantasy, but as it turns out, I may need to re-evaluate that mentality? Serpent and Dove is a story about a brash, vulgar Louise (Lou) who has resorted to thievery due to the fact that she is a witch and has fled from her coven. In a world where witches are hunted and burned, Lou stays undercover until an unfortunate run in with Reid Diggory, captain of the Chasseurs. Sworn to hunt and kill witches, Reid has grown up in the church, he knows nothing else. Missteps and bad luck land these two in a marriage that neither wants nor desires. Lou moves into the church with Reid and he is tasked with “controlling his wife.” Both characters (obviously) fall in love, and end up questioning their upbringing, and initial opinions on good vs. evil. Maybe things aren’t so black and white?

I am so mad at myself honestly. I try not to read series until they are all out so that I can binge the whole thing. Now I have to wait an entire year for the next one to come out. This is slated as a duology, so the second book, Blood and Honey, should be the last one in the series.

8 thoughts on “[Review] Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin

  1. Ha Samantha! Thanks to you I now know this is a series LOL And I am glad that you took a risk on this one that might be the one having you reconsider reading YA!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was at the PCA/ACA (Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association) conference last year and I saw a woman give a paper on witches. She addressed how the idea of “the witch” has been used to repress and control women through history and how the witch is being reclaimed as a symbol for female empowerment now. It was fascinating and it made me want to read more about it. While I’ve always known how “witch” has been used to demonize and control, I’ve never formally explored it academically. Nor have I thought about how stories like this (or ‘Charmed’ or ‘Sabrina’ or so many others) were an intentional move to flip that archetype and recast it. I loved the paper and reading your take on this novel made me think of it!

    Liked by 1 person

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