Book Review: Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin
A+ | A beautifully rich and addictive fantasy novel that has everything I could want in a book: magic, a protagonist and a deuteragonist who I can connect with and who have solid characterizations and development, side characters that are well developed and whom you can fall in love with too, a super well developed romance that is so utterly believable and that I completely supported, on point writing that grips you from start to finish, a world full of wonder and spectacular imagery, and a plot that is fully fleshed out and refuses to let you go even at the end.
So I got my hands on this book at BookCon when EpicReads was doing one of their ARC drops. It was a totally last minute decision to go and I’m so glad I made that decision because I was able to get this.
But yo. Holy moly this book. THIS BOOK. How do I even start this without sounding like a fool rambling?
I love this book. Let me repeat that: I LOVE THIS BOOK.
I adore Lou. I adore Reid. I adore Coco. I adore Ansel.
Lou and Reid are our protagonist and deuteragonist respectively and man, I completely and utterly enjoyed reading their POV chapters equally. I never felt like rushing through one character’s POV chapter over the other because they both are so well written and fleshed out. They felt so utterly human. The fact that I was able to connect with the both of them speaks to Shelby Mahurin’s writing abilities and how well she fleshed out and developed them.
From the start, I could connect with Lou and adored her. She’s blunt, she’s passionate, she’s profane, she’s obsessed with food (especially buns which is such a damn Mood), she’s ridiculously funny, she’s intelligent, and she’s tenacious. She will do anything and everything to survive, even if it means entering into a marriage with a Chasseur — her people’s enemy. She’s brave. She’s fearful. She’s quick to annoy people like Reid but she’s even quicker to defend her friends. She’s loving and hateful. She’s ruthless. She’s compassionate.
Layers, man. Lou is so layered those green tea crepe cakes from Lady M are jealous.
And it’s the same with Reid!
Reid has a stick up his butt. He’s loyal to the point of blindness. He sticks to his principles. He’s tall and strong. I mean — he’s a capable fighter and a believer. He is passionate. He is tenacious. He is ruthless, too, but he’s also oh so utterly human with conflicting emotions, especially once he grows closer too Lou.
Most importantly, despite the initial dislike and distrust he holds towards Lou, he makes the commitment to stick to his vows. He attempts to be a good husband towards her, despite the fact that their marriage is a forced union. He’s respectful towards her despite the fact that they both say rude words to each other.
But you know what? The relationship that develops between Lou and Reid feels so utterly real and natural. It truly develops from enemies to friends to lovers. There was this scene that truly got to me where Reid shares a secret with Lou and it just made me squeal like a fangirl because they were growing to like each other and Reid was starting to trust Lou.
Aside from the characters, the worldbuilding is just stunning. It’s so easy to fall into this world and to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste everything in Lou’s world. I could imagine myself in Cesarine. Hell, full disclosure, I didn’t read the back of the book where it states that this is “set in romantic seventeenth-century France” and I honest to God immediately imagined Paris.
In this universe, magic has a smell to it and a price must be paid to keep the balance. Vision for vision. A broken bone for a broken bone. A life for a life. I love seeing a developed magic system in books. I love to see magic in books have their rules, rituals, and how things work. It makes things so much easier to immerse myself in the world. It also makes it so much more believable. This magic system is complex and intelligent. It takes numbers and kicks butt.
In this world, magic flows in the blood of women — witches. The Church is well, just like the Catholic Church — need I say more? Although this world is different from our own, we have similarities: the brutality the Church uses against witches, the lengths the oppressed will go to defend themselves against their oppressors — even if it means using violence, the ever struggle of men being unable to stand women being stronger than them.
This world is gray. It is neither black or white. The witches may use cruel means to harm their victims, but the witches are victims, too. They struggle to survive in this cruel world filled with people who hate and fear them to the point where they would sell them out to the huntsmen to be burned alive. However, we can’t forget that the witches, too, employ cruel means against their victims.
I love it. I love worlds and books where the line between good and evil is blurred, where it is multiple shades of gray and what you are taught is good isn’t necessarily good.
Worlds where these lines are blurred set a good stage for awesome plots and stories. Mahurin was able to combine this world she created with this awesome, gripping and thrilling story. This book is filled with layers, each intricately stitched together into a solid framework. Despite the fact that there are these layers, it never loses sight of the main arc. Yes, romance is certainly a thing here and so is mature scenes and elements, but so are the questions of loyalty and love and hate and oppression and truth.
My heart swelled with joy and sunk down to my stomach with fear throughout this book. I screamed with joy and laughed a little too hard in some scenes. It’s vulgar and full of cuss words, but God that’s the beauty of it because it makes it so much more realistic.
While the book doesn’t end in a major cliffhanger, it does leave me wanting more. I’m so excited to see what happens in the future and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Shelby Mahurin’s future books.
I absolutely recommend this book. It’s a wonderful fantasy with a gripping storyline, amazing characters who are well developed and fleshed out, and awesome worldbuilding that allows you to truly immerse yourself into this universe.