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.
There’s something haunting about a body touched by magic. Most people first noticed the smell: not the rot of decay, but a cloying sweetness in their noses, a sharp taste on their tongues. Rare individuals also sensed a tingle in the air. A lingering aura on the corpse’s skin. As if the magic itself was still present somehow, watching and waiting.
solid, good read:
Before I start reading a book, I like to do a quick scroll through Goodreads reviews for a general idea of the ratings and feelings of the people I follow. I don’t want spoilers or any actual details; it’s just a quick skim to see what I’m getting myself into. Unfortunately, none of my friends on Goodreads seems to have liked this book. I scrolled through one and two-star ratings, the word ‘disappointing’ flashing at me from all directions. So I started this book pretty convinced I was going to DNF, just so that I could knock it off my TBR. Despite this uphill battle and all my preconceived notions, Serpent & Dove totally won me over.
There’s nothing genre-shattering or mind-blowing about Serpent & Dove, but it is a good story, told well. I’m impressed that it was Mahurin’s debut novel. Yeah, I cringed a little at the forced marriage and some of Lou’s decisions, but Mahurin avoided many pitfalls that would’ve been easy to include. The only miscommunication tropes were those used to avoid being burned at the stake, and where possible, these characters were honest about their beliefs and feelings. It was refreshingly normal, even with the magic and murder.
I liked this idea of balance in witchcraft – it played on the religious aspect and the hypocrisy of the Chasseurs – the whole eye for an eye and all that jazz. I liked the tension between the two factions despite (or because of) their shared history. I liked that Mahurin didn’t shy away from violence and gore, and people walked away from altercations with actual injuries that required time (or magic) to heal. I even liked the idea of witchcraft having a smell – how weird is that?! It made it risky and raised the stakes (pardon the pun).
I’m interested to see how this war plays out – it’s hard to see a path through that ends happily for all these characters, and that lack of predictability feels unique and exciting. I hope we learn more about blood witches and all witchcraft in general.
I’m hoping for some excellent ‘teach Reid witchcraft’ scenes. And if Ansel turns out to be a witch as well, I will be so. happy. It seems unlikely, but fingers crossed.
So I think the moral of the story is don’t let Goodreads influence your perception of a book. Or, since it is actually highly rated by the general public, maybe I should instead reconsider who I follow on Goodreads.