Since it burst on the scene two years ago, the Serpent & Dove series has been one of my favorites. Shelby Mahurin has perfected the enemies-to-lovers (a la witches and witch hunters) epic. The worldbuilding, the magic system, the wide cast of characters, it’s all perfect! And best of all, she pulls off an incredibly satisfying conclusion with Gods & Monsters.
If you haven’t read Serpent & Dove, I urge you to close out of this review and pick it up. And if you haven’t read the sequel, Blood & Honey, you should definitely stop what you’re doing and remedy that immediately. Spoilers abound for the series and I would hate to ruin the delicious (and startling!) chapters that await you by giving away the third book in the series.
But, before you go—I urge you to read this delectable, fantastic, at times heartbreaking series. Its one of the best that YA has to offer.
So, you’ve been warned. Read ahead at your own risk.
I’ll start by saying that this book left me breathless. This book was the reason readers stay up later than they should to read just one more chapter. There was no moment of rest for us, the reader, as we plunged headlong into Lou and Reid’s strife.
You might remember that the second book left off with Lou being possessed by the Dame Rouge, Nicholina, effectively betraying and breaking the truce they agreed to with Coco’s aunt, Josephine. You also might remember (even though I’d rather we didn’t have to) that Ansel was killed by Morgane during the La Mascarade Des Cranes.
Each event weighs heavy on the beginning of Gods & Monsters. The whole group feels Ansel’s loss heavily, so much so that no one catches on to Lou’s possession because his death is the reason she’s so withdrawn. And it is, his death nearly broke her and that allowed Nicholina to possess her.
As the group journeys to the Chateau to confront Morgane, they meet a determined and enterprising Celié—who after liberating her father’s vault, has gone in search of them so she can help. She wants to kill Morgane for kidnapping her and trapping her in her sister’s crypt and she knows Reid and Lou will help lead her there.
Soon after, they realize Lou is possessed and all plans to head to the Chateau are abandoned in favor of saving her. Along the way, they encounter mermaids in a land under the L’eau Melancholique, a dragon, and a few Gods who can’t interfere in the affairs of mortals.
If you think that the ensemble can’t get larger, you’re wrong. Each character and dynamic works perfectly and brings out the best of each other. The found family aspect was one of my favorite parts of the previous books and it works well here too. We’ve seen each character grow into each other so much—from Beau and Lou’s bond, to Coco and Reid’s tenuous alliance for Lou’s sake—that each triumph and heartache they experienced felt personal.
And at the heart, of course, is the epic love story of Lou and Reid. Maybe its the enemies to lovers, maybe its the arranged marriage trope at play, but I absolutely love these two. From their meet cute on, they’ve been fascinating to read and Shelby Mahurin has really used the tropes to her advantage. Each moment that they’re apart in this book (either physically or mentally) gives me just one more reason to keep reading at breakneck speed, so that I can see them return to each other.
As usual, Mahurin’s worldbuilding is so well layered that I felt deeply enveloped in Cesarine, its politics and beliefs. I loved that she expanded here to include more gods, melusines (mermaids, basically), and dragons! This series was such a fantastic example of worldbuilding supporting a great story, rather than bogging it down.
For all that I called the book breathless before, it isn’t overdone. The pacing was perfect, the action and reveals, and conclusion felt natural. Once I read the final chapter, in which I got very emotional, I felt at peace. One of my favorite series (and now books) was ending and I felt good about it? It was magic.
This is a book that made me laugh, giggle-snort, grin madly, and also cry until I couldn’t see the page. It demands to be adapted, just so I can see a whole ensemble cast belt out “Big Tiddy Liddy” on screen. I’m so grateful that I got to read it and that I met characters like Lou, Reid, Beau, Coco, Ansel, and Celié. Fictional, fantastical, and impossible, I felt more courageous and hopeful for meeting them. Either way, I’m a Shelby Mahurin fan for life and I’m going to be happily thinking about these books and characters for a long time.
Gods & Monsters was published on July 27, 2021.