Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

I am beyond excited to kick off my ‘Book Review’ page on this blog with one of the most gorgeous reads this year!

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin was released in early September 2019. I read it around that same time. I think the main reason why I fell for this book so hard has to do with some outside factors (as well as the writing being AH-MAZING), but overall it reminded me of why I love reading and writing.

It had been a long while since I last walked into my local Chapters Indigo (bookstore in Canada). I’ve been feeding my book buying addiction through ordering online or buying ebooks. So, on a rainy day, when my mindset was not it’s best, I decided to stop by Chapters and browse around. Something about being in a bookstore just instantly lifts my mood. From the smell of the pages, the stacks of colors and genres, and the taste of coffee the moment you step through the doors.

Serpant & Dove was sitting there. All fabulous with that beautiful cover, staring at me, practically begging to be picked up. One scan at the synopsis and I had to purchase it. A couple of days later, I was clutching the book to my chest.

Disclaimer: This is a non-spoilery review! All thoughts are my own. Book was purchased with my own money. Be advised, this will have a lot of gushing over kick ass characters, intricate magic system, and hot, strong, brooding dudes.

Here’s the cover and synopsis (courtesy of Goodreads):

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

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.

I want to first talk about the magic system. It stood out to me so much and was unlike anything I read before, really. The magic system in this book was based upon balance. If you were to use magic to take something away from someone, you had to give something away of equal value. Also – magic did not come easy. It had to be worked at, honed, practiced. Even conjuring it up was a feat of endurance and did not just come from ‘within’.

Magic that does have that element of just being powerful because it is magic, makes sense and is often seen in other works, so this was a real breath of fresh air. Even the witch covens all had intricate styles and backgrounds that added to the elements of magic in this world Shelby created.

Something else Shelby created extremely well was the tension between the main character, Louise, and basically every other character. Louise is headstrong, stubborn, and does not care at all what people think of her. To have conflict with many people in her life and around her made sense, which, made her so much more believable. She also was one with inner turmoil that had me feeling exactly as she did. Shelby wrote her incredibly well to say the least.

All the other characters were also well written, dynamic for the most part, and added substance to not only the world but the story being told. (Anyone else think Ansel Diggory is that puppy dog character who not only deserves the world but you just want to protect him, always?)

One of those people is Reid who is sooooooo the stereotype of brooding and distorted because of his horrible past. Safe to say I fell head-over-heels as soon as he appeared on the page. His character was given more depth when his habits and activities were shown. He had this realness to him that was raw. While being guarded, he also laid out his emotions in a way that showed his true intentions with every turn of the page. It made him that noble kind of character you root for. Not to mention his character development added so greatly to the lovers to enemies slow burn that I LIVED FOR!

That romance was one you may have read in other books no doubt, but still a classic trope that had it’s own twists and turns – just like the plot which had my jaw dropping every other chapter! I really cannot speak on plot more without giving anything away. It had some well-written action scenes, a mystery element that kept your fingers glued to the edges of the book, and funny dialogue that had me cackling aloud to myself!

Lastly, the setting was not as over the top fantasy as some other books, nor was it super modern/urban. It seemed normal to me. A world which had limited tech but still ways in which people got around and moved on with normal life. I think it was the only part of the book, I would have loved to learn more about as I didn’t get a proper taste for it.

Overall, the book was a fantastic read. I do wish there was more diversity in it. Of course it centers around more of the generic European fantasy world, however that should not limit the diversity of characters in both ethnicity and race. For me, that might have been the only downfall but again, it’s what the story called for. It was definitely a pleasant experience from purchasing it to sitting on the couch missing lunch and dinner to keep reading (a HUGE deal for me since I live my life around my meals for the day :p).

If you’re in the mood for a magical, action-packed romance book, then do yourself a favour and pick this one up!

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