With a stunning setting, unique worldbuilding, intoxicating characters, and a heartbreaking enemies-to-lovers romance, Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin is true perfection. I will say right now, it is without a doubt my personal favorite book of the year. The premise is fascinating, but it’s the two main characters who make you fall in love with the book, along with its whole cast of delightful side characters as well.
As a hardcore history nerd, I adored that the book’s setting is historical France – or a fantasy realm that seems like historical France, but with witches. Lou is a witch, but after having to flee her coven in order to save her life, she’s living on the streets as a common thief. She usually only steals money or precious jewels, but now she’s set her eyes on something bigger: Angelica’s ring, a magic ring that can protect her when her coven inevitably comes knocking.
The Chasseurs are sworn protectors of the city of Cesarine. They live under the motto: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. And Reid is the most devout of them all. Now he’s on the hunt for a mysterious thief who tried to steal a magic ring… and nothing will stand in his way.
When the two are caught in what appears to be a compromising situation, they are offered a choice: lose everything or wed. It’s an easy decision. The marriage, however, is anything but easy. Lou is a free spirit, expecting to be allowed to go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, and she swears like a sailor. Reid is uptight (Lou describes him as having “a stick stuck up his ass”), unsmiling, and makes his pure hatred of witches plain. He hates Lou for being a “heathen,” and she hates him for being intolerant. Lou needs protection from her coven, however, so she tries to adjust as best as she can.
The two (predictability) start to fall in love, although they do so at an agonizingly painful pace, but there is still so much that lies between them—her secret and his hatred of witches. Can they overcome those odds? Can Reid protect Lou from whatever is coming for her, as he promised he would? When he discovers the truth, will he even want to protect her anymore?
I could go on forever about what I love about this book. What I love most about Serpent & Dove is Lou and Reid. I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful each of these characters are individually, but their relationship together is even better. Lou is irreverent and hilarious. I live for her sassy commentary and comebacks in every situation. Reid’s response to her makes it so much better. Early on in their relationship, whenever Lou feels like upsetting Reid, she’ll start to sing a dirty bar song at the top of her lungs, which will make Reid blush and beg her to stop. Every scene between the two of them is pure gold. I was rooting for them from the beginning, and although it is agonizing to wait for them to realize they love each other, it’s worth it in the end.
I also love the conflict between religion and the witches. It’s so interesting to see both sides of the war from different perspectives, especially when they are forced to come together in Lou and Reid. On the surface, it’s a story about two worlds colliding, but deep down, it’s about overcoming your prejudices and learning to see the world from another person’s perspective. In the end, there’s no easy answers in this war. Life is not in black and white: one side pure good, one side pure evil. I love stories like this, because I think it teaches you things not just within the realm of this fantasy world, but within our own world as well.
Serpent & Dove is a thing of wonder. From the moment I picked it up to the moment I finished it, I couldn’t stop reading it. I want to spend more time with Lou and Reid, just listening to their banter and laughing with them. I want to learn more about their world, about how things became so messed up. I desperately want to see how it ends (it’s a duology!). I anxiously await Book Two. I can’t wait to step back into that world, and I hope you love it as much as I do. If you’re a fan of witches, dark magic, slow burn enemies-to-lovers romance, and just a beautiful story, you will love this book. I cannot recommend it more.