Content\Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, sexual content, anger issues, death, murder, talk of torture, poisoning/drugging, forced marriage, talk of a female sacrifice, scene of implied sexual assault/rape, trauma/PTSD, violence, physical assault
“I was no one’s sacrifice. Not then. Not now. Not ever.”
I can’t believe what I just read. I laughed, I crying, I cringed, and I nearly ripped my book in half reading, devouring this book. Honestly, this was everything I needed to keep me out of a terrible reading slump and this book might be the most polarizing book that I have read thus far in 2019. There was so much good, there was so much bad, but overall, I loved reading this book and I think I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on Serpent & Dove.
Our tale follows our main character, Lou who’s a witch on the run from her coven, forsaking magic and living off whatever she could steal. However, due to a series of unfortunate events, she lands in the hands of the Archbishop and a Chasseur by the name of Reid Diggory who becomes Lou’s newest protector and husband. With the war between the church and the witches on the horizon, Lou is faced with the most difficult choice she’ll ever have to make in her life and love makes fools of us all.
I loved Lou as a character right from the very beginning. She’s very cunning, incredibly intelligent, she has so much sass, and I was living for every moment with her. I also really loved how Lou’s scent was cinnamon and how it ties back to her love for cinnamon rolls. It just made me truly happy. What I connected most with Lou was the way she hid the scar on her neck. It clenched my heart in such a hard grasp and I couldn’t stop yelling at the pages “I understand!” I also really loved her friendship with Coco. Just from what you read in this book, the amount of love and the fierceness of the desire they each have to protect one another is just a friendship after my own heart. I’m a firm believer of protecting your loved ones with a large amount of loyalty, fierceness, and love; their friendship added ten years onto my life. Speaking of Coco, I’m obsessed with her! I truly wished we had received greater detail of Coco because she is such a bright flame in this book. She’s a blood witch and the way she fights just catches my breath every time.
I also really enjoyed the magic system in this book. Lou is a Dame Blanche witch which means their magic comes from the land and with their magic coming from the land there must always be balance. So if you take something then you must give something back for what you’ve taken. For example, if Lou wanted to unlock something then she would have to break a finger or there’s a scene where a witch is burning at the stake and to easy the witch’s pain, Lou took the pain away by transferring the pain to herself and her own body. You also have Coco who is a Dame Rouge witch or a blood witch and for the magic she does, everything requires blood. So that could mean Coco pays the price with her own blood or she may require the blood from an animal or another person. For example, in the beginning to keep track of Lou and Bas during a heist she required a drop of blood from each of them. There were so many other moments where we really get to see the magic system at work and I truly loved every moment.
I also want to take a moment to appreciate how some of these characters are morally grey. Characters like Reid and Lou are both morally grey who struggle between what’s right, what’s wrong, and everything in between. I love morally grey characters and how they respond to the events and the world around them. It makes them more relatable and it truly allows room for fear and shock because as the reader we can see ourselves and our own actions in a morally grey character over a character who’s painted in black and white. One character named Ansel. He’s a Chasseur “in training” and we see so many amazing points and those morally grey characteristics coming out. Those characteristics really come through when Lou disappears and Reid is lost in his own inner turmoil. Even though he is a Chasseur, he boldly states multiple times how Lou is his friend and how he doesn’t care if she’s a witch because he’s seen her personality and true character in the times where it counts. Ansel is a precious cinnamon roll who needs to be protected and I would give up my soul for him.
“Our lives reflect our hearts.”
With all of this good, of course there will be flaws. Before I truly get into the problematic material, if you have read and finished this book then I definitely recommend checking out the video made by Jeese at Bowties & Books. They have a lot of good points, address a lot of the issues, and a lot of my own thoughts align with the things they have to say. Now, onto the issues!
As much as I love a lot of the things in this book, my biggest issue is the lack of Indigenous representation and the poor way the culture and history is represented. It’s no secret that I take a lot of pride in my Native American heritage and I even tried to convince myself that maybe I was just being overly sensitive and just need to recognize that this is a fantasy world, but the bottom line is that no effort or attempt was made to do research or include actual Indigenous people who had their land historically stolen. This book puts a heavy emphasis on how the land was stolen from the witches and how a long time ago foreign countries came to the land of the witches and stole their land by force, hunted them down and killed them, and colonized their land. The whole entire thing made me extremely uncomfortable because even today a lot of people forget that foreign countries came and invaded the United States, stole the land from the Indigenous people, wiped out many tribes in the colonization of the United States, and what remaining tribes there are now live on reservations. So in my opinion, if you’re going to write about history that actually happened then there should have been research, there should be actual representation of the culture and the history that you’re pulling from, and there should be more inclusion of characters that are from that culture.
My other top issue is the way Reid treats Lou a lot of the times. Reid gets very possessive and clingy of Lou and the situations that really draw attention are the scenes where he has his hands on her and adds enough force that it’s described as a tight grip, but not to the point of physically hurting her, followed up by giving her commands which then get looped back to them being husband and wife. There’s also a moment in the book when Reid gets bothered by Lou hugging a character, by the name of Pan, for hugging too long even though they’re long time friends. While Reid and Lou do have many moments that are sweet and endearing, seems like they’re becoming closer, and let’s be honest that sex scene was 11/10, but Reid has severe anger issues and has used his anger openly towards Lou that has caused her to flinch in response and there was a really weird, uncomfortable scene with Lou concerning consent and marriage. All of this mixed together spells for toxic behavior and a relationship that clearly needs improvement.
There were many other things that had irritated me or made me cringe, but those were the two biggest issues I had with this book that I can’t stop thinking about. And I think it’s important that we recognize and acknowledge these things so they can be corrected and fixed in future books to come.
“There are some things that can’t be changed with words. Some things have to be seen. They have to be felt.”
Overall, I think I’m the odd one out with this book. Since this book has released, it has become a very polarizing book. I know so many friends who have hyped this book and I have a couple friends who ‘dnf’ this book, and odd enough, I fall smack dab in the middle with it all. There were things that I loved and things that I found very problematic with this book, but I still enjoyed my time reading this book and I don’t have any regrets. And I think no matter where you fall with this book, your thoughts and opinions are valid. I did buddy read this book with a wonderful friend and she had an amazing time reading this book. I think my critical reading came through and hindered my reading experience a bit, but I firmly believe you can read a book with problematic material and still enjoy your reading experience. So I liked this book. Isn’t wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t super outstanding, it was a book that made me want to keep reading with it’s fast pace. I think if you’ve been debating on picking this book up, I say go for it!