French aristocracy meets witchcraft meets Young Adult fiction. In this wild ride of a tale, Shelby Mahurin delivers her startlingly vivid debut novel Serpent & Dove. Filled with mystery, angst and romance, it’s everything a good YA Fantasy should have.
We meet our protagonists, Louise and Reid, as completely opposite characters. Louise, or Lou, is a street rat. Stealing, fighting and cursing entirely too much; Lou is spunky. Nobody can get in her way without regretting it. Further, she harbors a secret that could get her burned at the stake: She’s a witch. Though able to wield magic abilities, Lou has turned her back on that lifestyle, instead concealing herself in the shadows of the city.
Reid is a Chasseur, a fighting man sworn to the Holy Church with one tenant to live by: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Reid is caring, disciplined and struggled to rein in an anger problem. His whole life has revolved around his station as Captain. He gladly puts his neck on the line to protect the people from the ever-present threat of witches.
And of course, in true YA Literature fashion, they cross paths and are forced into the most unlikely of circumstances: marriage.
From there, we follow the pair and their friends on an intense and painful journey of secrecy and lies. The story is punchy and quick and I found it incredibly hard to put down.
The writing is fantastic and the craftsmanship of the author is extremely well done. The novel is just fast paced enough to keep you on your toes, yet slow enough to let the characters reveal themselves to the reader. The story is full of tension between characters, namely Lou and Reid. Their struggle to not constantly be at each other’s throats is riveting.
The world of Serpent & Dove itself is also unique. Using such a real world framework and injecting fantasy elements into it works very well here. The setting is undoubtedly French in nature and their speech is peppered with the language. You’ll hear the characters use words like “pâtissière” and “couronnes” sprinkled throughout. It’s another way Mahurin brings the world to life for her readers.
The Church is also based on the Christian religion. Anyone familiar with the Bible will recognize verses quoted by the characters. An interesting choice made by the author, one that may be controversial to some.
The novel does not shy away from mature themes. The magic system within the world is filled with consequences and wields a sort of dangerous power. It can destroy and disease, yet just as easily not. For Lou, her magic demands balance. If she wishes to use it, she must sacrifice something to do so. Magic often involves bodily harm or psychological damage. It is nothing like mere parlor tricks.
Serpent & Dove has been a delight to read. If you’re a fan of dark magic, fight scenes or enemies-to-lovers romance plots then this is certainly a book you should pick up. It has also been received very well by readers globally and was even chosen to be Barnes & Noble’s YA Book Club novel of October. Sarah Mahurin is a NYT bestselling author from her debut novel, a much-deserved title.
A sequel has been confirmed, called “Blood & Honey.” Readers will have to wait until fall 2020 to get their hands on the continuation.