BOOK REVIEW: SERPENT & DOVE BY SHELBY MAHURIN

Book Review

“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.”

Synopsis:

For her sixteenth birthday, Louise le Blanc’s mother gave her three things: a sacrificial altar, a ritual knife, and a wicked scar. Lou’s death would have ended the ancient war between the Church and witches, but Lou refuses to become a martyr. Forsaking her coven, she escapes to the gloomy city of Cesarine and hides her magic as a thief in the criminal underworld. But life in Cesarine has its own dangers. Huntsmen roam the city revered as holy men. Witches burn without trial. And the Archbishop, the Church’s austere patriarch, revels in violence.

As a huntsman, Reid Diggory lives by one verse: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. He’s devoted his entire life to eradicating the occult and making his surrogate father, the Archbishop, proud. Finally given the chance to capture a witch of his own, Reid is devastated when a foul-mouthed thief thwarts him—and doubly devastated when she too disappears. Hell-bent on bringing her to justice, Reid vows she won’t escape again. But when Lou tricks him into public scandal trying to avoid capture, the two are forced into an impossible situation—marriage.

Marriage to a huntsman could provide real protection from the witches—if Lou can convince Reid she isn’t one herself. The secret proves difficult to keep as Lou begins practicing magic in secret within the heart of the Church, determined to prepare for her mother’s inevitable return. As time passes, however, Lou discovers yet another danger lurking: her own growing feelings for her husband. But Reid is still dangerous. He’s just as likely to tie her to the stake as defend her if he learns her true identity. With enemies closing in—and more than her own life at stake—Lou must decide who she can trust before it’s too late…and she’s not the only one with a secret.


RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Serpent & Dove has stayed with me long after I finished reading it. I picked it up on a complete whim during tome topple, because the premise of a witch and a witch hunter being forced into holy matrimony sounded too good to pass up. Nothing makes me happier than an enemies to lover romance either. A good one at that. But to say Serpent & Dove was merely a ‘good’ enemies to lovers romance undermines all that is special about this debut.

This book really lives up to its hype and then some. As someone who is a slower reader and is easily distracted, I read this 500 something page book in a few days. A feat that may usually take me a week. Which is a testament to what a great story I thought this book was. I was seriously on the edge of my seat. Itching for more and more breadcrumbs that Shelby Mahurin was giving me every time Lou and Reid so much as breathed in the same room.

This story is set in Cesarine, a french inspired city that also feels Victorian-y, partially because of the medieval views on women. To be a witch in the city of Cesarine is a death wish, as The Archbishop and the church (and by extension the Chasseurs aka witch hunters) are the pillar of this city. Anyone found guilty of using or being associated with magic and witches risk being burned at the stake by the church.

“Wicked are the ways of women—and especially a witch. Their guile knows no bounds.”

Personally, I really loved the setting and thought it complimented the story incredibly well. I have the benefit of not being historical buff, so any inaccuracies just happily go over my head.

I just adored Lou AND Reid as individuals. I’ve capitalised the ‘and’ here, because often the F/M characters in romances can feel very… one-sided for me. By this I mean I often adore the female character and feel a bit lukewarm towards the male character. Serpent & Dove is the exception to this, because I enjoyed both Lou and Reid’s perspectives immensely.

Although… I still marginally enjoyed Lou’s perspective more in this story. I think anyone who has read (and probably enjoyed) this story will agree that she just shines off the page. More so, she is just so much damn fun. On a relentless quest to live, Lou is uninhibited by social constraints. I loved her foul-mouth and wild spirit. Seriously, she scales rooftops, robs aristocrats, wears disguises and gets into brawls. She’s also gifted with magic, completely unbeknownst to Reid when they marry. But she’s forsaken magic in order to remain hidden. I love her arc and figuring out just who Lou was hiding from kept me turning the pages.

“I didn’t want a husband. Didn’t want to be shackled to anyone in marriage, especially someone as stiff and self-righteous as this Chasseur.”

Where Lou is crass and unrestrained, Reid is a civilised and proper man of society. He needs to be as a Chasseur, a holy man dedicated to the Church and to eradicating the witches tormenting his city. Upon meeting Lou, Reid immediately detests her because of her loud and unapologetic ways, and for not acting like a proper lady of society. Their differences make for the best banter and it just helped to fuel their romance. He soon learns that he can’t control Lou, which makes this story all the better because Lou refuses to sit down and listen to anyone, especially Reid.

“Now move, or I swear to God, I will strip naked right here and dance the bourree!”
I thrust my hands on my hips and looked at him expectantly.
He didn’t even glance at the people around us.
Instead, he kept his eyes trained on mine, a slow smirk spreading across his face.
“Do it.”

I loved how Reid had a gradual arc of coming to love and accept Lou, not wanting her to conform, as they became closer and more intimate. Despite the fact that he’s a witch hunter with abhorrent views on magic, he isn’t the obvious ‘bad guy’ in this story that I anticipated he might be. I thought that a lot of the characters here existed in grey areas and I enjoyed them all the more for it.

Oh and the romance I keep mentioning? Well I think the best should be left unsaid. The excitement of how Lou and Reid meet and the circumstances they find themselves needing to marry one another was so much fun. There’s that word again… FUN! Also the Nina and Matthias feels are strong here. The dynamics are pretty similar – Lou being the witch and Reid the witch hunter. But this story is definitely unique in its own right. But if you’re having Nina and Matthias withdrawals… you’re just going to love this. Also this is story isn’t strictly young adult. There are steamy scenes (very minimal). Much to my surprise and approval. Not going lie, I loved it. Just as much as I love the one bed trope, which naturally makes an appearance… 😉

I loved the unique magic system Shelby Mahurin has created for her world here and seeing the ways different types of witches wield magic. I think I only picked up on two types of witches – blood and… whatever Lou is. I’d be interested if their were more in the forthcoming books, but would nevertheless still be happy just to see Lou wield more of her own magic.

I do think this is a story largely driven by the romance. So I’d be more inclined to recommend it to readers who want to read a fantasy/paranormal romance. Because this book could seriously be your next favourite.


Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

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