2019 releases · fantasy · YA

Make It French and Call It Fantasy: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

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Image result for serpent and doveEveryone and their mother here knows how much I love the hate-to-love trope and how well the enemies-to-lovers set up works for me. So when I saw Serpent & Dove with its gorgeous cover, I knew I had to read it. Not only was it enemies to lovers, it was a witch and witch hunter love story and witches is like my second favorite thing in a book, right after the hate-to-love. So this should have been the perfect pick for me, which is why I immediately requested an ARC and had to read it ASAP. I hate to always be the hater in the sea of positive reviews, but I have to say that this, my friends, was a mess.

We follow Lou, a witch who is in hiding and hasn’t practiced magic in years because she is on the run. After an unfortunate incident, which involves the captain of the Chasseurs, Reid (the witch hunter force of the Church), she is forced to marry him (yup, there’s also fake marriage) to avoid a disaster and move into the Chausser Tower with him.

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worldbuilding

I spoke about this in my Shadow and Bone review, but there’s a difference between something being inspired by France and French history and something just being a rip-off of France. This book had no world-building at all. It is set in the land of Belterra (which means like pretty earth or pretty land, FYI) and the author should have just set this in 15th century France but with witches. This way, the occasional usage of French language made no sense, and the world lacked any sort of descriptors or originality. The conflict between the Chasseurs (yes, the french word for hunter) and the witches was explained through ONE legend which made no sense, but the conflict in actuality is Christianity, which is ridiculous. If you have a made-up world, why make it’s main religion Christianity, when you can actually make up a religion that works for the actual world? Or why not just make this France? I feel like that would require too much research when the point of this book is the actual romance between the two characters, but I think that a big part of Fantasy is world-building, and making things French isn’t world-building, which is why I found this incredibly frustrating.

I did enjoy the magic system – it being based on seeing patterns and on sacrifice is something I think is really clever and I enjoyed it. However, the magic lacked structure and rules, sometimes it worked differently if that’s what the plot needed and I hate that. So I feel like it had a lot of potential and then didn’t live up to it.

dual perspective

This book is told both through Reid and Lou’s perspectives, but both are told in first person and I think that wasn’t a good decision. I think getting a really distinctive narrative voice is hard enough as is, but to have two and have them be different enough is really hard to do, and it really did not work here. I forgot half the time from whose point of view I was reading, and Lou and Reid are very different people, so that should not have been an issue. I feel like this would have worked a lot better if it was told either through third-person narration, or if it was just from Lou’s perspective, because I think she is the better-established character. I did not gain anything from Reid’s perspective – it wasn’t different enough from Lou’s and I don’t think it really managed to flesh out his inner conflict well, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

writing

I found the writing to be incredibly repetitive, and it relies heavily on using certain words or syntagms all the time. It’s very rare that I notice these kinds of things in a book – I usually either like the writing or I don’t, and have a hard time explaining why, but the repetition in here was so obvious that even I can pinpoint why this wasn’t working. For example, Reid uses heathen a billion times, and Lou uses “my husband” another million (yes, those are the exact word counts) and I died a bit with every single one of those repetitions.

I also think that the book was too long and not well-paced. It should have been about a 100 page shorter and nothing would have changed, and the story would be more evenly paced. Instead, we got a wonderful built up for the relationship of the two characters in the first part, but then an abrupt change in the intensity of it (we got to “love of my life” so fast I got whiplash) and then we got a lot of action in the last third of the book, which felt so rushed. But, I will say that the first part of the novel was super engaging and it was never a chore for me to pick up this book. I enjoyed reading it, although part of it was fueled by my dislike, to be honest.

characters

Ultimately, I did enjoy the characters in this novel and I think they were good, but I needed way more range from them.

Lou was definitely my favorite, I liked how spunky and determined she was. And she was a survivor which I always love in a character – she does what she needs to do in the world in order to survive. If that means she has to steal, she does it, if it means she has to marry a witch hunter, she does it and I really loved that about her. On top of that, I love how clever she was and how she stood her ground and teased Reid all the time. Really enjoyed her as a protagonist.

Reid lacked a personality – even his witch hating is unconvincing. A lot of his character rides on him being indoctrinated into this hate, but we don’t really see any of it. And I found him to be a really simple character, and borderline idiotic at times. At least Matthias (who he is compared to, but my man Matthias WOULD NEVER) is a complex idiot. Reid needed so much time to come to conclusions that were blatantly obvious that it was ridiculous. And his perspective did not help at all – never made me understand his character better. He lacked nuance and he lacked personality.

The side characters were interesting, but nothing really to die over. Ansel was precious and loveable, but far from fleshed out. Coco is a badass and a good friend, but again, far from fleshed out.

Like I said, ultimately, the characters were good, but nothing spectacular. Their dynamic however, was where it’s at with this novel.

dynamic

The best part of this novel was the dynamic between Lou and Reid, which was done really well for about 60 percent of the novel. I think their banter was done really well and I think they really worked well on-page. I have seen other people compare their dynamic to Nina and Matthias’ dynamic and I agree, I can see the resemblance. But I call this the clearance sale version of that dynamic – it lacked the range, the tension and the emotional complexity that those two have. I wish we got more of Reid’s inner turmoil and conflict when he found out Lou was a witch. Instead he is conflicted for two pages and then he switches to let’s go save her. I think he should have found out earlier and then we could see his whole belief system shattered by the fact that he likes a witch. Instead, this felt kind of cheap – he was more conflicted by her being a thief in the beginning than by her being a witch, which doesn’t make sense for his character.

Still, the best part of this novel is the dynamic between those two and I can understand why so many people liked this novel. It is that kind of push and pull thing, and it was done well. I just wish we got more from it.

sidenote

This book feels a bit more New Adult than YA – the characters act more maturely, they feel like they are in their twenties. Reid is also a Captain of this elite witch hunting force, so it’s another one of those teen captain of the guard situations. And there’s a quite explicit sex scene in this (the most explicit one I ever read in a young adult book) so just be aware of those things.

verdict

I hate to be the only person who did not love this, but I think this book wasn’t that good. I think it did have potential, but left a lot to be desired. However, I did find it entertaining and I can understand why people love it – it’s an engaging read. I would not be quick to recommend this, but I might continue on with the series, so take that as you will.

2.5

add

I would love to hear from you! Do you have this on your TBR? Or have you already read this one? And how much do you dislike long reviews like this one lmao? Let me know!

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*I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a review. All opinions are clearly my own. 

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10 thoughts on “Make It French and Call It Fantasy: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

  1. Great review! I can totally see why you weren’t a fan of certain parts of the book! I still want to read this book, but I’m lowering my expectation, so that the disappointment won’t be so big haha 😉

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did too – and I was so surprised that I had so many issues with it. I get why people enjoy it, it’s an entertaining read, but I could not help but notice all the problems. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts if you ever end up reading it. But I do hope you enjoy it more!

      Like

  2. I appreciate so much your honest review! I’m not sure if I’ll eventually read it, but I HAVE been on the fence about what to expect.I had heard about the comparison with Nina/Matthias but wasn’t sure how much it really ressembled it. If it was not up to par or if it was just as enjoyable. So thanks for your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can definitely see the comparisons, I just think Nina and Matthias are infinitely better written characters and their dynamic is in my opinion much more nuanced. And I was sad to not like this, but I had to put all of my thoughts out there (and I obviously had a lot)

      Like

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