One of the most anticipated releases of 2020, Blood & Honey, the second installment of the Serpent & Dove trilogy by Shelby Mahurin, continues the passionate, tumultuous, romantic tale of the witch, Lou LaBlanc, and the witch hunter, Reid Diggory. While Serpent & Dove is a powerhouse of a debut, Blood & Honey suffers from severe sequelitis in this duology turned trilogy.
The main charm of the original book, Lou and Reid’s steamy, forbidden romance, has sputtered to a small spark due to the angsty and aimless plot.
The story follows Lou, Reid, and the gang on the run from Lou’s crazy witch overlord of a mother, while they simultaneously search for people (and werewolves) to join in their fight against Morgane. Yet, emotional tensions run high, and every character is all up in their feelings.
So, all aboard the struggle bus! Get comfy, because this story isn’t going to be leaving the vehicle anytime soon.
Reid wrestles with his newfound identity of being both a witch and a witch hunter, giving him his own emo “Gollum” moments as I like to call them, where he struggles with the voices in his head. He hates magic, yet it’s a part of him now. At the same time, Lou pulls an “Anakin Skywalker” and struggles with succumbing to her own powerful magic in order to keep Reid safe from harm. She goes so emo that she even undergoes a crappy dye job (albeit unintentionally). Even Ansel and Coco are caught up in their own teenage drama, which I will keep vague for the sake of spoilers.
These characters are the reason why I love this series. Despite being total opposites, Lou and Reid fought for each other. Their love is one of the most convincing, realistic romances I’ve ever read in a YA novel. So, it was such a shame to see everything they worked towards in Serpent & Dove just get squashed and undone in this installment. While Shelby Mahurin’s realistic characters are one of her greatest strengths, she went a little too hardcore with the realism this time. It was devastating and frustrating to watch Lou and Reid fight and misunderstand each other nonstop. They got so in their own heads, they shut each other out. Realistic yes, fun to read, not so much.
Furthermore, the plot is simply just not interesting. “Gathering the troops” can be an exciting moment in a story if you feel like there is real tension and stakes on the line, however Blood & Honey fails to set up any major stakes beyond “we should probably stop the bad guy.” Unfortunately, the story reads as a four hundred page “fetch quest” as our characters go from place to place trying to find allies. Only in the last 30 pages did anything of real consequence take place, which of course begs the question,”why didn’t they keep this series a duology?” It would have been a much more compelling narrative if the second and third books were combined.
Yet despite that the characters are in a dark place and angsty as emo teens at a Hot Topic, the trajectory looks up for the third installment. The last 30 pages are intense with high stakes. I was left staring at the last page in shock. The tension in the final piece of this trilogy is going to be off the charts, and I am ready for it.
So, even though the sequelitis is strong with this one, the characters are some of the strongest and well-written in today’s YA market. Shelby Mahurin is a brilliant writer, she knows how to build a world and make realistic, lovable, flawed characters. I love these peeps, no matter how many times they mistrust each other or have irrational feelings. I’m in till the end. I’ll be shipping Lou and Reid forever.