This review of Serpent & Dove contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission to no cost to you from any purchases you make through these links
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Genre: Fantasy
- Audience: Upper YA, New Adult
- Pages: 513 (hardcover)
- Trigger Warnings: sexual assault, violence, gore, sexism
- Tropes Included: enemies to lovers, arranged marriage, witches, sharing one bed, hate-to-love (then back to hate)
I will admit, I went into Serpent & Dove feeling very skeptical because of all the mixed opinions I’ve heard about the series.
Turns out, the skepticism wasn’t necessary, because I enjoyed it immensely!
The beginning was filled with French terminology and difficult to interpret names that took a little getting used to. However, after a couple chapters, the terminology cut back. And what little jargon remained was easier to interpret and to read without getting too caught up in it.
I found the plot, while not out-of-this-world unique (as in not something that is so unique it was almost alien), to be interesting and compelling.
Though it was not full of ground-breaking plot points and tropes, it used old ones in flattering ways or altered old ones into something slightly new which added a fair amount of uniqueness to the story that I really appreciated.
The plot kept me interested the whole way through the novel. For some reason, I expected the plot to really drop off after the 50% mark and for it to become boring and tedious, but I am pleased to report that that didn’t happen at all! The plot pacing didn’t get much faster, but instead remained consistent, rising and falling when needed to support the progression of the story.
I really enjoyed many of the characters I saw, but I would have loved some more depth to be added to some of the witches, Lou’s friends, the Archbishop, the King and Prince Beauregard, etc. Lou and Reid, however, were delightfully rounded and well-developed.
I’ve heard many people hating on Reid. And because I have been making sure that no one spoiled me as to what happens in Serpent & Dove, I am not quite sure why.
I believe that people have been calling him sexist and do not find him attractive or a good romantic interest for Lou.
While Reid is a bit sexist, I didn’t have a huge problem with it.
And before you exit out of this review in a fit of anger, let me explain to you why I say this. I promise I believe in equality of the sexes just as much as the next girl, and I get angry when sexist shit happens to me, but I believe that as far as the first book in the Serpent & Dove series goes, I don’t see why Reid is getting the hate he is.
He is supposed to be sexist, people.
Are some readers just not understanding that? It’s part of his character… for now! The author is a woman, so I’m fairly certain she doesn’t plan to KEEP her protagonist’s love interest as a sexist, arrogant man.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
We, as readers, are supposed to be able to read this and understand the setting and psychology of the characters within this world and this story that Mahurin has created. The events in the novel occur somewhere in this 17th century fantasy (France-esque) world. Meaning women’s roles and other feminist movements weren’t really a thing if we are to take any hints from our own world history.
Additionally, Reid is under the instruction of the Archbishop and a group of witch hunters who have brainwashed him into believing witches (which are all women, btw) are evil and sinful. Reid is basically in a CULT and if you know anything about cults and how deceptive they can be and how much success they can have with brainwashing individuals, then you must know how easy it could’ve been for the witch hunter cult to do such a thing to Reid’s mind, considering he is still relatively young and very impressionable.
Sexism in itself is bad, I agree. but I don’t believe Reid’s character and personality is there to justify sexism or romanticize it.
The cult and his circumstances raised and brainwashed Reid to be this way. I believe the real purpose behind it is to show the affects of the witch-hunting background and the time period on him currently. Then hopefully as part of his ultimate character arc, as his relationship with Lou develops, he will be able to finally work through the brainwashing the witch-hunt cult and medieval society has done to him and finally shed the sexism for good.
As for Lou’s character, I had loads of fun reading her wittiness and humor, as well as the tricky and mischievous behaviors she exhibits throughout the novel.
Her vulgarity is also extremely entertaining in juxtaposition with Reid’s sensibility and conservative nature.
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.Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
While I’m on the topic of how much Lou and Reid compliment one another, I would like to take a second to dwell on their relationship and how their romance develops over the course of the story.
The romance was intriguing and compelling. I rooted for them and found that I read their scenes with a sense of anticipation each time. Their romance made my heart race at times and made me smile at others. I loved many aspects of it.
Reid and Lou married against their will earlier in the story. It was at this point, that I worried for the sort of attraction they felt for one another and thought it might cross over into the abhorrent insta-love trope, but Mahurin was able to pull back in her writing and slow down the romance from there in a regularly paced (not quite slow burn) relationship.
The symbolism of the title “Serpent & Dove” showcases Mahurin’s talent for writing. Especially in how it’s employed.
I won’t go too much into it because I could write a whole post on it. Let me know if you’d like to see that on my blog. But I will say that while it might not have been intentional to the extent to which I think it was, her use of the symbols of serpents and doves throughout the novel was amazing.
It really speaks to not only her ability to tell a captivating story, but also to her understanding of writing more literary prose. There is meaning behind even her surface level prose, which a seasoned reader can access if only they really look for it.
In all, Serpent and Dove impressed me immensely. I am glad to say… This book will be able to join my list of favorite books of all time.
“Wicked are the ways of women—and especially a witch. Their guile knows no bounds.”Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Serpent & Dove by Shelby MahurinSerpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
similar titles to serpent & dove
click on the above photos in order to buy on amazon
Let’s Chat in the Comments!
Are there any books you were skeptical to read at first because of such mixed opinions by friends or other readers, but read and ultimately loved? Were there some you ended up hating? Either way, what were the books?
Also, I mentioned the symbolism of the Serpent & Dove title; would you like a blog post in which I discuss what my analysis was of the symbols while reading? If so, leave a comment saying that below! I would love to write it.