Review: SERPENT & DOVE by Shelby Mahurin

Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count: 528
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Series: SERPENT & DOVE, Book 1
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – REALLY Liked It!

Note: I was provided a free ARC of this book by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.

40024139When a heist goes bad for Lou, the last thing she expected was to end up in a marriage.  But that’s what happens when, in the course of trying to make her escape, she implies a scandalous breach of honor by Reid, a member of the holy order of Chasseurs. To smooth over the gossip, the archbishop publicly announces the two are actually married – and then insists that they go through with the actual deed to continue the charade.  All this would be bad enough, if it weren’t for two deadly facts: the order of Chasseurs are dedicated witch hunters, and Lou is secretly a witch. The need to gain some protection from enemies in town forces Lou to accept the proposition, but her life balances on a knife’s edge.  She knows if Reid figures out her secret, he’ll gladly tie her to the stake and light the fire himself.

The characters, oh the characters!  They are always the thing I remember most when I fall in love with a book, and this time is no exception.  Lou has become a fast favorite.  In a society inspired by 15th or 16th century France, Lou is a woman who wears pants, swears, steals and kills to keep herself safe.  She is ruthless when she needs to be, but delights in just enjoying the fun in any given situation.  Most of the time in this book, that means needling Reid, her husband, jailor, and potential executioner.  Reid is a little more of a mixed bag.  It was harder to like him, but that’s kind of the point.  Reid is a Christian character who walks the walk, which means he’s essentially a good person but is shocked at impropriety, doesn’t swear, is serious all the time, and firmly believes that adage “though shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Watching the friction (and eventual budding romance) between Reid and Lou is the crux of this book.  Reid learns to loosen up, but is still struggling with his beliefs by the end of the story – a few decades of upbringing don’t change in a matter of days.  There’s also a delightful supporting cast, though one character shows up at the eleventh hour in a manner that’s a bit of a headscratcher.

The rest of book’s qualities are solid or better.  The pacing is fantastic; I unintentionally read this book in the space of 24 hours because I just kept wanting to know what happened next!  The magic is a bit sparse in this particular story, as Lou is attempting to use as little magic as possible, but what there is has an intriguing system of trade. In this world, the dominant form of magic is one that demands an “equal” trade, though what is considered equal is open to interpretation and varies from witch to witch.  Early on, Lou needs to get past a lock; to break the lock, she allows the magic to break one of her fingers, a break for a break. This leads to one or two inventive solutions of what to use to fuel one’s magic, and I look forward to seeing the magic expanded upon in the sequel.

SERPENT & DOVE is mesmerizing, with daring adventure and heartbreak all rolled into one. It’s the kind of read where the pages fly by, and where the stakes seem genuine and threatening.  I, for one, am impatiently awaiting the sequel, and in the meantime will be happily throwing this book at any fan of the YA fantasy genre.

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