Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

serpent & dove by shelby mahurin
serpent & dove by shelby mahurin

I’ve been on a real YA fantasy kick lately – and when I started looking for my next read, Serpent & Dove kept coming up (also it kept showing up on my TikTok). It seemed to be widely loved (and has a high average on Goodreads) so I decided to pick it up. Unfortunately, this book was a massive flop for me.

For her sixteenth birthday, Louise le Blanc’s mother gave her three things: a sacrificial altar, a ritual knife, and a wicked scar.

Lou’s death would have ended the ancient war between the Church and witches, but Lou refuses to become a martyr. Forsaking her coven, she escapes to the gloomy city of Cesarine and hides her magic as a thief in the criminal underworld. But life in Cesarine has its own dangers. Huntsmen roam the city revered as holy men. Witches burn without trial. And the Archbishop, the Church’s austere patriarch, revels in violence.

As a huntsman, Reid Diggory lives by one verse: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

He’s devoted his entire life to eradicating the occult and making his surrogate father, the Archbishop, proud. Finally given the chance to capture a witch of his own, Reid is devastated when a foul-mouthed thief thwarts him—and doubly devastated when she too disappears. Hell-bent on bringing her to justice, Reid vows she won’t escape again. But when Lou tricks him into public scandal trying to avoid capture, the two are forced into an impossible situation—marriage.

Marriage to a huntsman could provide real protection from the witches—if Lou can convince Reid she isn’t one herself. The secret proves difficult to keep as Lou begins practicing magic in secret within the heart of the Church, determined to prepare for her mother’s inevitable return. As time passes, however, Lou discovers yet another danger lurking: her own growing feelings for her husband. But Reid is still dangerous. He’s just as likely to tie her to the stake as defend her if he learns her true identity. With enemies closing in—and more than her own life at stake—Lou must decide who she can trust before it’s too late…and she’s not the only one with a secret.

My issues with this book started with the writing style and story telling style. I found the author focused on meaningless world building (that didn’t contribute to the story at all) too much at the beginning of the book. It made it super hard to get into the story. The author also focused on useless details instead of actually setting up the magic system or building the chemistry between the two leads. I also found that the pacing was all over the map – the author rushed through what should have been important scenes, and focused way too much on trivial ones. Overall, the writing quality was just super basic and lacked style. 

My biggest problem with Serpent & Dove is about Lou and Reid’s relationship. The premise was that they were enemies forced together into marriage who eventually started falling in love for real. Unfortunately, I found their chemistry to be entirely lacking. There was no spark between them, they were totally unbelievable as a couple. I also found the start of their warming up to each other to be rushed and forced. It’s been a long time since I’ve read about a couple quite this badly suited for each other. 

I’m glad other people loved Serpent & Dove – but I just don’t understand the appeal. I found the romance to be forced, the entire story to be contrived and honestly the whole thing felt like amateur fiction from Wattpad. I definitely will not be continuing on with this series – and I can’t in good conscience recommend this book to anyone. If you’re looking for a good YA fantasy, check out anything by Tamora Pierce or Sorcery of Thorns. 2/5

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  1. I’m always worried that a book won’t live up to the hype! 😢 I haven’t read this yet but I will and hopefully I’ll like it. It’s a shame this book didn’t live up to hype for you.

  2. I thought the cover and the premise were both really exciting but how disappointing that it didn’t work. When there’s a complete lack of chemistry, it just makes it kinda boring, doesn’t it? Thanks for the honest review!

  3. Oh no! Sorry this one didn’t live up to the hype for you. I’ve not read this one yet but I do have it on my shelf along with the second book as well but I keep putting it off for that exact reason! Hyped books scare me!

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