Author: Shelby Mahurin
Genre: NA Fantasy
Series: Serpent & Dove #1
”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.Goodreads Synopsis
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.”
When I first read the synopsis I was both intrigued and sceptical. I sounds like the type of story that can be great or bad depending on how the characters are written and how many tropes-potholes the author accidentally falls into. Here’s my take on a synopsis and what I though:
So Lou is a witch in hiding, meaning she makes a living as a thief and try to avoid using magic as much as possible. She’s quite content with her life, until after a series of weird accidental events she finds herself forced into a marriage with the Chasseur (or witch hunter) Reid by no other than the archbishop himself. Reid does of course not know that Lou is a witch, but finds her absolutely disagreeable nonetheless because she does not behave at all like a woman should in his opinion. Even her name is offensive to him. And reading about these two trying to coexist while Lou hides her identity while managing ghosts from her past that are staring up trouble is entertainment on the highest level! I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this story. Ok, except for that many events where a bit obvious. But even those I enjoyed immensely, so no biggie!
It’s supposed to be categorised as YA, but it would be totally acceptable to put it in the NA category because of some of its sexual and violent content. I’m personally going to put it on the NA list because I feel that it’s where it belongs. Just wanted to clear that up a bit so new readers gets an idea of what’s ahead of them.
There’s not much actual world building going on, because the place feels like a fantasy 17th century France with a lot of french words mixed with the Vatican/Rome regime. I thought this was good because there’s so much else going on in the book that explaining a whole new society would perhaps have been too much. Overall it’s colourful and vibrant, and the society feels both familiar and fresh at the same time.
The magic system is so freaking awesome that I’m struggling to find the words to compliment it enough. It’s all about balance, and the saying ”an eye for an eye” came to mind multiple times while reading. It’s a ”if you want something you must pay the price” kind of deal. Also; Magic has a distinct scent, so the Chasseur can literally smell if a witch is doing magic nearby.
Oh Lou, how I adore you! She’s funny, independent, smart and has one hell of a mouth on her. And she just refuses to behave the way people wants and expect her to, even when she’s neck deep in trouble. I just love everything about her!
Reid.. A part of me does not want to like him! He set my teeth on edge a few times with some chauvinistic and racist behaviour, often in the same breath. But since he’s the male protagonist in this YA series, of course he’s not ”too bad” and is prone to change and educate himself. So he gets some points for that, even though it was very predictable and stereotypic. But since the chemistry and banter between him and Lou is pure gold, I have to say that I found him very likeable in the end. And I’ll grudgingly admit that romance wise, he has some moments where I had to fan myself.
I’ve seen some people comparing these two with characters from another book. I’m just going to say it; Matthias and Nina from Six of Crows pales in comparison with Lou and Reid! I’ll fight you on this!
“Now move, or I swear to God, I will strip naked right here and dance the bourree!”
I thrust my hands on my hips and looked at him expectantly.
He didn’t even glance at the people around us. […]
Instead, he kept his eyes trained on mine, a slow smirk spreading across his face.
All the characters are well written and more on the complex side. Even the characters with almost no impact on the main plot has some individual flair to them. And that brings a richness to the story and it’s easier to feel connected to the world.
I’m kinda staying on the topic of characters here too, because Shelby Mahurin knows how to write them! The plot, language and world are great, but it’s the characters depth and interactions with each other that makes this book so amazing!
Some other things I liked about how this book is written is; The simple but rich language that made it almost impossible to stop reading, the pacing and the perfect timing and balance of the comedic elements.
This book is an instant new favourite! There’s hardly anything to complain about. So what holds this book back from receiving the highest rating? The predictability. From the moment I started reading, not much of the events surprised me. I knew where the journey would end and most of what happened on the way felt like pleasant but familiar scenery. Even tough I loved it, the excitement where not where it could have been had there been less ”cues” on what will unfold. But still a strong 4,5 stars because it was amazing anyways.
Discussion; Did you also compare Matthias and Nina with Lou and Reid, and if so, why?