Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

I just finished this book this morning and I’m still speechless! Never would I have guessed that this was a debut novel for Ms. Mahurin. It was so well written and the plot devilishly intricate. The book hangover is real!

For those that haven’t heard of this one, here’s the deets from Goodreads:

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.

*

Going in, I didn’t know much about this book because hardly anyone I know was talking about it. But the idea of a witch and a witch-hunter bound in marriage intrigued me. How did it happen? How exactly, was it going to work? Was this going to be a book about them trying to kill each other the entire time? Or would they learn to live together in an uneasy truce? I got none of what I expected but everything that I needed.

“You’re playing with fire here, Lou. Sooner or later, you will get burnt.”
I grinned halfheartedly. “Let’s hope for later, then.”

Louise, or Lou, as she likes to be called, has been on the run from her coven for the past 2 years. Born only to fulfill a duty as sacrifice, she escapes the night of her would-be murder and creates a new life for herself as a thief and temptress. While trying to escape a couple bad guys, Lou runs straight into Reid (our uptight but amusing Chasseur (aka Witch-Hunter)) during a parade. Not knowing that Lou is a witch, he lets her go as an attack is made on the royal family. But this is not the last time these two run into each other. Literally.

“But the flames come first with the Church. Questions second. It’s a dangerous time to be female.”

You see, while Chasseurs are primarily employed and trained by the Church, they are also the first line of defense between the people and witches. Nearly all Chasseurs take a vow of celibacy and give their life to the Church and their brethren. Think: Knights Templar from the Crusades. As such, they also patrol streets and investigate any suspicious activity. So when they get tipped off that a local noble’s home will be burglarized, the Chasseurs join the constabulary to catch the culprits. Enter Lou and Reid’s second meeting.

“Every aspect of Reid was precise, certain, every color in its proper place. Undiluted by indecision, he saw the world in black and white, suffering none of the messy, charcoal colors in between. The colors of ash and smoke. Of fear and doubt. The colors of me.”

Alas, it’s not until the third time they meet… A particularly amusing spectacle that takes place backstage of a play, that these two truly get stuck together. In short – while Lou was trying to escape from Reid, he accidentally grabs and rips her dress, causing them both to trip and land on stage… in front hundreds… in a very compromising position. To save face, the Archbishop (whom I LOATHED), forces Reid to marry her. Thus ending any question of impropriety between them. Because you know, husbands can do whatever they want with their wife.

“I never said it was your god. Your god hates women. We were an afterthought.”

Still, Reid has no idea that Lou is a witch. However, with Lou’s mother getting closer by the day to discovering where she’s hiding, it seems that shacking up with a Chasseur may be her best shot at safety. Unfortunately, keeping her secret and her growing feelings for Reid hidden… well, that’s easier said than done.

“You’re to be my wife.” Catching up to her in two strides, I reached out to grab her arm, but stopped short of touching her. “That means you’ll obey me.”

“Does it?” She raised her brows, still grinning. “I suppose that means you’ll honor and protect me, then? If we’re adhering to the dusty old roles of your patriarchy?”

I shortened my pace to match hers. “Yes.”

She clapped her hands together. “Excellent. At least this will be entertaining. I have many enemies.”

“Imagine that.”

“I wouldn’t, if I were you… You’ll have nightmares for weeks.”

For my part, I loved both Reid and Lou. Lou is so strong and independent with a huge heart. She’s willing to sacrifice anything for the ones she holds dear. Reid, abandoned as a baby, has learned that the only way to survive is to keep to a strict set of life rules. He’s surly, stoic, and comically uncomfortable around Lou’s unabashed love of life. Both taught to fear and hate the other, they learn that nothing is ever so simple.

“I leaned back, studying her as she finished my bun. A bit of icing covered her lip. Her nose was still red from the cold, her hair wild and windblown. My little heathen.”

I also loved that this story was set in a world that very much made me think of Renaissance France. My mind kept flashing to images of CW’s Reign but with witches. Everything was so well thought out too! From the intricate back story between the Royals and the Dame Blanches, to Reid’s own mysterious heritage, I was kept guessing at every turn.

“I loved her. Despite everything. Despite the lies, the betrayal, the hurt. Despite the Archbishop and Morgane le Blanc. Despite my own brothers. I don’t know if she returned that love, and I didn’t care. If she was destined to burn in Hell, I would burn with her.”

The only thing that kept me from giving it a 5 star rating was that it was LONG! Yes, when you pick it up, you automatically know it’s over 500 pages. But this was also very character driven with action interspersed periodically. I’d say close to 75% of this book was centered around Lou and Reid’s backstories and how their relationship develops. I loved every second (the banter between them had me laughing out loud a lot) but it did drag a little every now and then. I can’t say that there was stuff that could’ve been cut out because it all seemed to play a part in the overarching story BUT… It’s still a hefty book so be prepared. 🙂

“Why the fuck is everyone in this kingdom trying to murder my wife?”

The last thing I want to leave you with is a couple warnings. This story contains abuse, cussing, sex (1 scene), cutting, and murder. It’s listed as Young Adult but I feel like it might be better suited for New Adult readers. Yes, Lou is around 18 and Reid is in his early 20s (I think 20 or 21) but what they are going through is definitely not teenage situations. Everyone knows their own reading palate but I wanted to put it out there just in case.

If you’re a fan of books along the lines of ‘A Discovery of Witches’ and ‘Witching Savannah’, I think you’ll love this one. So go ahead and pick this one up!

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from you.’” He trailed his fingers down my arm in slow, torturous strokes. My head fell back on his shoulder, my eyes fluttering closed, as his lips continued to move against my neck. “‘Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay.” Fan Art by Gabriella Bujdoso.

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