Love isn’t a decision. It arrives unannounced, breeds madness, and leaves a sea of ruin in its wake. Hate him or love him. Either way, he’s in certain hell.”
– Pam Godwin, “Sea of Ruin”
What It’s About:
The official synopsis:
Bennett Sharp is on the run. Wanted for piracy, she fears neither God nor death nor man. Except Priest Farrell.
The unfaithful, stormy-eyed libertine hunts her with terrifying possessiveness. Nothing will stop him from coming for her. Not his unforgivable betrayal. Not when she’s captured by the ice-cold pirate hunter, Lord Ashley Cutler. She must escape Ashley’s prison and Priest’s deceit. But can she walk away from their twisted desires?
Two gorgeous captains stand on opposite sides of the law. When they collide in a battle to protect her, the lines blur between enemies and lovers. Passion heats, secrets unravel, and hearts entangle until they break. Can love prevail in the sea of ruin?
First posted book review of 2023!! And it’s also one of the top books of 2022 for me too!
This book actually really surprised me with how much I really enjoyed it, Pam Godwin really sucked me in with her writing and the story that she put together here. This was my first book by her, but it’s also the first book of hers that really intrigued me enough to really want to dive in–pun slightly intended–and read what this book was all about. It gave me Pirates of the Caribbean-meets-Outlander kind of vibes a little bit, just without the fantasy aspects that go with the epic, swashbuckling Disney adventure series. Don’t let that draw you away from this book though, the story is still quite an adventure.
The story is about Bennett Sharp, a high society darling turned woman pirate captain–think very much Elizabeth Swan vibes–who’s currently on the run not only from the King’s Navy, but also her Pirate Husband! Well, soon to be ex-husband? He was caught cheating in an affair, she’s devastated, and was like “Peace out, Bitch,” and sailed off into the sunset, but not necessarily with a happily ever after… Priest Farrell, the accused cheater, isn’t just letting her go without a fight though.
At about 25% into the story, she’s captured by a feared Commodore, Ashley Cutler, and is taken aboard his ship as prisoner. And that is where I’ll cut off my recap of this experience of a book, so definitely give it a read if you want to see what possibly happens next!
This is a book that’s better going in as blind as possible, which is of course ironic with the many trigger warnings that go with this story too, but I say do your research and if this is still a story that sounds like one you’d enjoy, hopefully you don’t see spoilers because how you discover how things come to be is truly part of what makes this such a fun read! I mean, you can kind of guess some based off the synopsis, BUT there’s still plenty more to find out!
Love prevailed, not in the windless calm of life, but in the ruin.“
– Pam Godwin, “Sea of Ruin”
What I Liked:
The Dialogue Sounded Historically Accurate! One feature I noticed and really enjoyed was the dialogue and how it sounded so historically accurate! Well I mean, I’m no historian so don’t take my word for how accurate it actually is, but what I mean is it didn’t sound like everyone was just speaking modern day English like a lot of novels do these days. Not that that’s a bad thing for me or makes or breaks a book, but I do like when a book actually does sound like it comes from the time period it takes place in. It also still sounded natural too in this book, which I also appreciate!
Lots of Spice! Need I say more?…If you’re looking for a spicy, piratey adventure story, you’ll get that here!
What I Didn’t Like:
The FMC Is In Danger….A LOT….As a female Pirate Captain, Bennett gets into pretty hot water, like, A LOT of the time. Like, seriously….a lot. Half the book is her threatened to be assaulted, or worse she actually gets assaulted…like damn! Lets give her some time to breathe maybe? Or not have to worry about almost every male character and where his penis goes…I bet this is maybe pretty historically accurate what with how much rape is in Outlander….but even I’m like “Okay…this is getting a tad excessive” by a certain point. I think we’re supposed to marvel over the strength of the FMC and all that she overcomes, but YOWZA does this author really put her through the wringer…I guess at least she has her two hotties to make up for it?
LOTS of Trigger Warnings…I’m not an easily triggered reader, so the only reason I really have this listed on here is really for it to be my warning to other readers to look into the triggers that go with this book, and that because of the many warnings, I know I can’t recommend this book to others and be able to talk about it with others…..I know, woe is me, right?
Overall, this was quite an adventure filled with dark perils and forbidden seduction that absolutely rivets you to keep on steering forward at a purposeful pace. I really enjoyed it, I loved the danger and how I actually worried about the well-being of the main characters, and Pam Godwin’s writing felt so smooth and natural and flowed so extremely well, she’s definitely a pro at the craft.
If you like the following: Pirates of the Caribbean, Outlander, the New Camelot Trilogy by Sierra Simone, or something that’s kind of a mix between all three of them: definitely give this book a whirl and see what you think!
It’s been a joy to make yet another fancast for my blog for others to enjoy, and after I got caught up on this series in particular, it was a huge goal of mine to complete ASAP! The From and Ash series has very quickly become a huge favorite of mine this year, and has become almost like a beacon of light and hope over what has to be the crappiest year EVER with 2020!
Who knew I’d become absolutely obsessed with a book series about Vampires and Werewolves in 2020, but with how this year has been going, it feels like nothing can surprise me some days…
For those that aren’t aware, this is a book series that somehow got two books published this year from Jennifer L. Armentrout, who must be a writing machine because these books are thicccccccc! We’re talking 600+ pages for both of them, and it’s also 600+ pages of pure wicked entertainment!
If I had to describe this series in a couple words, they’d be the following: Enchanting, Dangerous, Ominous, Sultry, Seductive, Enthralling, hair-raising, spine-tingling, dangerous, and utterly romantic. Fans of authors like Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, and Laura Thalassa just to name a few will absolutely devour these books and become as obsessed as pretty much every other reader who’s gotten their hands on them.
It’s a story of a young woman named Penellaphe Balfour, or “Poppy” as her friends call her, who’s raised as the maiden, who’s a holy figure amongst her people and is the chosen who will one day become Ascended. With that, she must live a life of solitude; no eye contact, no spoken words, and to keep her head down unless ordered otherwise. It’s a sad life, but others would kill for the position, so she should be thankful…
All that is called into question as Hawke Flynn comes into her life and becomes her new knight/bodyguard. Duty and passion become twisted together as he helps her question everything she’s ever known, but also finally gives her the push to hope for more…
There’s whispers of an ancient Kingdom back on the rise, plus creatures of the night growing more and more restless. Lines are blurred as to what is right and wrong, and Poppy will do whatever it takes in order to protect not only those she cares about but also herself and her heart…
To see my review of book #1 – From Blood and Ash – Click HERE!
To see my review of book #2 – A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire – Click HERE!
To see my review of book #3 – The Crown of Gilded Bones – Click HERE!
To see my review of Flesh and Fire Book #1 – A Shadow in the Ember – Click HERE!
To see my review of book #4 – The War of Two Queens – Click HERE!
Quick Disclaimer!*** I do not own any of these images even as I try to credit all who are known, and I will promptly remove if asked to do so by any of the owners.
Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:
Kieran Contou: Isha Blaaker
Kieran is a huge fan favorite for the series, so I had to come up with someone who’d look like he deserved to have a large following! I originally casted Kendrick Sampson as the role, but I honestly fancast him for a ton of parts where it’s a character who’s POC with lighter colored eyes. I wanted to switch it up, plus I’d say I do the same thing with Jesse Williams (who’s too old for the part anyways), so Isha definitely looks the part!
Vikter Wardwell: Graham McTavish
Love this Scottish actor in both Outlander and even his smaller role in the fourth season of Lucifer, but he has that older, more protective fatherly figure vibe which is right up Vikter’s alley, so I think Graham would nail this role if they were to actually make From Blood and Ash into a movie/TV series.
Rylan Keal: Garrett Hedlund
I’m not too familiar with this actor, but a few movies he’s pretty noteworthy of was the rebooted Disney’s TRON: Legacy film from about ten years ago, plus he was in Country Strong. I don’t know, he just has those unassuming blond looks that I really pictured for Poppy’s original bodyguard.
Tawny Lyon: Caris Shelton
Tawny was actually a hard choice, and part of me feels like I still may switch out this choice at some point or another if another face comes along that I think would fill the role better. Until that happens, I think this gorgeous model I found on Instagram has the look I imagined for Tawny.
Lord Brandole Mazeen: Craig Parker
Some of you may or may not recognize this actor, but he’s actually been in a couple widely popular films and TV shows! He was the Elven general in Lord of the Rings, he was also in TV shows like Reign and Spartacus, which if you’ve watched them, will totally make you agree with how I casted him for such a cruel character in these books!
Duke Dorian Teerman: Peter Facinelli
I mean, why not cast at least one character from the Twilight movies in this? Part of me still can’t believe I’m so obsessed with a Vampire-esque Paranormal Romance quite like From Blood and Ash, and it’s freakin’ 2020! The Duke is cold, menacing, and vicious behind closed doors, so I thought it’d be an interesting switch from Peter playing Dr. Carlisle.
Duchess Jacinda Teerman: Inbar Lavi
She played the first ever woman in the world, Eve, in the Netflix hit, Lucifer, and for some reason I totally pictured her playing the role of the Duchess as well…it totally could just be because I was watching the show and reading the first book around the same time. Kind of like Peter Facinelli above, the roles are so opposite of each other, I’m curious to see if the actress could pull it off!
Jericho: Tom Felton
Jericho was a smaller role for the first book, sure, but why not have a bigger name actor to play the role itself? For some reason, Jericho was giving me some major Draco Malfoy vibes, so I thought it’d be fun to have Tom Felton play the role, why not?
Elijah: Travis Van Winkle, or Nathan Parsons
Elijah was a toss-up since not much was actually told about his looks other than his beard and warm eyes. I mean, that could be taken in so many directions, right? Travis Van Winkl;e fulfills the more wholesome, all-american guy next door vibe I could see Elijah having, but Nathan Parsons, who’s been on The Originals (Spin-off of The Vampire Diaries), so it wouldn’t be unfamiliar territory for him either!
Delano: Drew Van Acker
Drew Van Acker is a personal favorite of mine! He was the tortured and gorgeous Jason Dilaurentis in the tv adaptation of Pretty Little Liars, and his sad, soulful eyes along with the rest of his good looks have always stuck with me over the years, and I love to fancast him for other blond male roles if I see fit.
Naill: Rome Flynn
The other half of the Wolven dynamic duo along with Delano, Rome Flynn is who I pictured for this particular character, who’s only been described thus far as having dark skin. I picture all the Wolven being stunningly gorgeous, I mean why not?…so I pictured this young actor from the Shonda Rhimes courtroom drama, How to Get Away with Murder, to add up some even more sex appeal onto this fancast of mine.
Alastir Davenwell: Brett Tucker
Alastir was described as being rather good looking even with it being obvious he’s getting a little older in age, and this Australian has been on my radar ever since I first saw him in the TV Show, Spartacus. Alastir may be a total drama loving instigator, and I could go on about all that, but at least he’s pretty easy on the eyes, amiright ladies, gents, and non-binaries?
Emil Da’Lahr: Ken Bek
I feel like Ken Bek is just the basic-bitch go to casting for EVERYONE who needs an attractive male redhead for some character (him and Sam Heughan), but I can’t help it with this one! Ken just has that mischievous smirk in almost all his modeling photos that really just remind me of this character, who I still don’t know whether I like them or not quite yet!
Lord Chaney: Finn Wittrock
Finn is an incredible actor, probably one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood right now! He’s incredibly versatile, and I can say that even just from watching him perform a wide variety of characters in a couple seasons of American Horror Story. Plus, Lord Chaney is an Ascended, and I just picture them being beautiful beings.
Vonetta Contou: Logan Browning
Logan Browning has become a favorite of mine since I’ve seen her star as the powerful roll of Sam in the Netflix show, Dear White People, I also picture her as Kieran’s sister in this series. Her acting chops are definitely up to par, I know she’d do nothing but add even more greatness to the cast!
Jasper Contou: Luke Evans
Jasper was one of those characters you just fall in love with the moment you meet them, and I could say the same about Cinna from Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, The Hunger Games. At first, I was like a ton of the fandom who’d fancasted Idris Elba and/or Lenny Kravitz, but Jennifer Armentrout actually confirmed that Jasper is white (It makes sense if Kieran and Vonetta are lighter in skin tone), so I had to reimagine the character and who could play him. Luke Evans, whose been in The Hobbit trilogy and even Gaston in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, would be my new Jasper!
Hawke Flynn/ Casteel Da’Neer: Danilo D’Agostino
Danilo D’Agostino, image credits to owners
Of course, like almost every other fandom with a wickedly devastating male love interest like this character, there’s a huge debate of who would be perfect to play him. EVERYONE has their own preference of who they feel is attractive enough and skilled enough to play the part, which is totally fine! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I have to say I can agree with just about every choice I saw come up: Stephen Amell, Jesse Metcalfe, Theo James, Matthew Daddario (who was my original choice), but after much deliberation on my part, this is the guy I’ve narrowed it down to!
Penellaphe “Poppy” Balfour: Peyton Gastel, or Laura Gwyneth Butler
Poppy is the vampire para-romance heroine we really need; she’s the exact opposite of Bella Swan, and I am fully behind her on her journey, and these two are my final choices of who’d portray her in a cinematic format! The first is a model I found on Instagram who has the red hair, green eyes combo that is Poppy! My other choice is a model who Facebook user Tiffany R. on the Facebook group I’m a member introduced us to, and I fully support this choice as well!
Queen Eloana Da’Neer: Gal Gadot
She’s used to playing a powerful, regal figure like Diana (aka: Wonderwoman) in the DC Superhero movies, but I also imagined her playing the role of the Queen of Atlantia, and also Casteel’s mother. She’s actually a very complex character as you read on in The Crown of Gilded Bone, and I know Gal would do an amazing job!
King Valyn Da’Neer: Chris Pine
We all know King Valyn was going to be blond daddy goals, and at first I was picturing Brad Pitt playing this role, but I know with how word of mouth is he was miserable on the set of Interview With a Vampire back in the 90’s, so I think he’d avoid another vampire franchise like this one. As for Chris Pine, why not? He’s got the looks, the acting ability, and we know he has chemistry with Gal Gadot in the Wonderwoman movies too!
Commander Jansen: Simon Merrellis
He was a character that I—and I’m sure most of the fandom is guilty too—totally overlooked and didn’t think would become a bigger character than where he was already at. But reading the third book, he practically shoves his way to the forefront and became worthy of my consideration to add him on here. I only know this actor from the STARZ hit show, Spartacus.
Hisa Fa’Mar:Lesley-Anne Brandt
LOOOOOVE her in Lucifer, and even though the characters are incredibly different from one another, I know that Lesley can play badass, powerful females. She’d have no problem being the General of the Atlantian Army.
Kirha Contou: Danai Gurira, or Angela Bassett
Two totally iconic POC woman in Hollywood, I would be happy with either choice to play the mother of Kieran and Vonetta as well as wife to Jasper. This is a softer role—at least so far of where we’re at in the series—but I imagine Kirha is a glorious fighter on the battlefield when she needs to be! Danai was in Black Panther and The Walking Dead, and Angela Bassett I know from American Horror Story, Black Panther, and 9-1-1 on Fox.
Perry: Nathan Owens
So as soon as I found out this Wolven is actually Delano’s on-and-off lover, I had to include him in my fancast! This gorgeous model would add some serious eye candy to the screen, and the total hotness that is the friendship with Casteel and Kieran as they’ve all known each other since childhood.
Miss Wilhelmina Colyns: Nia Long
I’m so happy we get to meet the illustrious, infamous being that is Miss Willa Colyns in this series. She’s more than just an author of a smutty diary that is—not so secretly—Poppy’s favourite book, but is also an elder of the Atlantian kingdom! Nia Long is a stunning pop culture icon whose been acting for quite some time now, I totally remember her all the way back when she was in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but she’s also been in Big Momma’s House, Third Watch, and NCIS: Los Angeles.
Ian Balfour: Ben Barnes, or Nathaniel Buzolic
So yes, I’ve totally already binged Shadow and Bone on Netflix as I type this, so meeting Ian shortly after that probably has made me have Ben Barnes on the brain, and can you blame me? He was a magnificent Darkling, and I’d love to see him apart of this series if it ever came onto our screens too someday! If SaB took about eight years or so to make it happen, it could very well happen for Blood and Ash too! Nathaniel has a background in vampire filmology as well, he was Kol Mikaelson in both The Vampire Diaries and The Originals!
Nyktos: Henry Cavill
A lot of the fandom has put Henry’s name out there as possible fancast choices for Hawke/Casteel, and while I’d never be so douchey and rude as to tell anyone who they can and can’t choose for their own personal casting, I also couldn’t say I agreed with that either. Henry needed to play an older character, and why not play the King of the Gods? This way we’re all happy that Henry can be a part of the series after all, and get lost in either his dreamy eyes or his impressive jawline!
The Consort, Sera Mierel: Katheryn Winnick
I wanted to fancast this role ASAP since it appears that were also getting some prequel books in the Blood and Ash world that stars Nyktos, and spoilers in the third book also reveal more about this character. Katheryn Winnick was in the popular show Vikings, and I keep telling myself that I need to watch it someday!
Nektas: Martin Sensmeier
Here is a Native American Actor who is a much better option for Nektas than who I had before! Before it was Tom Ellis, but that was before I was fully aware that Nektas was POC, and I had Tom Ellis, who is a terrific actor, but wasn’t russet skinned like this character is described as! So here is me with a quick apology for whitewashing a character, I ignorance on that so no cancelling me please and offer this new choice as a solution!
The Handmaiden/Revenant: Megan Fox
This was an interesting new concept added to the series in The Crown of GIlded Bone, and as soon as this character was introduced into the story, I got some major Kate Beckinsale in Underworld vibes. I also instantly thought of this image of Megan Fox I picked, and thought she’d play the role incredibly well. I can already tell this character will be one to watch out for in several ways, and Megan Fox honestly doesn’t get enough credit for her acting abilities. I believe she has more to offer than just how Hollywood perceived her and marketed her as back in the day when Michael Bay pretty much almost completely blacklisted her.
Prince Malik Da’Neer: Reeve Carney
We finally meet the older brother to Casteel, the firstborn Da’Neer son who was set to take the throne. I loved the twist with him, I can say I didn’t see it coming and all he had to offer the game of thrones we’re now playing in this series. This actor was in Penny Dreadful, and instantly who I thought could play Malik as soon as we met him!
Queen Ileana: Christina Hendricks
I am honestly doing a chef’s kiss at how perfect I think this casting choice would be if they made the Blood and Ash books into the show or film series. Christina Hendricks has been in Mad Men, and she’s also currently in the Netflix show Good Girls, and she has a unique look to her, a sultry vibe who I think is the ONLY choice who’d perfectly capture the Blood Queen and leader of the Ascended.
King Jalara: Jude Law
Jude Law was actually very close to becoming my choice for King Valyn, but then I remembered how well he played the villain in King Arthur, and he does have a sexier, almost devilish appeal to him, so I wanted him to stay on the dark side and play this role as well too!
Reaver: Ewan Mitchell
So for the sake of not using Jamie Campbell Bower AGAIN on another fancast, even though you look up Reaver’s physical description on his wiki page and it literally reads like him….I’m going to toss out this actor’s name instead to switch things up and get some variety! He’s only 25, from Derby, England, and isn’t as recognizable unless you’re a fan of a certain new HBO show about a certain line of dragon ridings rulers…yes, this is the guy who plays Aemond Targaryen!
So there you have it for now!
With many more books on the way—including a least one told from Casteel’s perspective—I know there will be even more characters to add, so wait for those next books to release and I’ll add more names and faces ASAP!
I’m happy to say I’m starting off the new year on a high note! Based off other reviews I’ve found, along with its impressive Goodreads rating, the gorgeous cover, I had a feeling this title was going to leave me happy that I’d decided to pick it up and give it a try.
With it being their debut novel out on the market, not much is known about Shelby Mahurin: what’s her writing style? How is her character work? Story pacing? Would I care about her characters?…It’s a bit like going on a first date with all the jittery butterflies in your stomach with the excited nervousness of uncertainty whether the relationship–you and a new author and book–will work out or not. Believe me…there’s been plenty of times where I’d thought I’d be taking a book home to meet the parents–so to speak–and ended up in disappointment: my easiest example in recent memory was my final thoughts on The Priory of the Orange Tree.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I’d found myself enjoying this story as I’d gotten further into it. I was up late into the night on multiple occasions in order to get further along and see what would happen next instead of getting a decent amount of sleep, and thats always a sign that the book was a hit for me; needing answers instead of sleep is a guaranteed thumbs up from me.
This book brings something new to the table for the YA Fantasy genre, which is great considering how littered it’s gotten over the years with what feels like a lot of the same clichés, story arcs, etc. There’s just too many copies of the same things done over and over with just slight variations in order to avoid of plagiarism lawsuit, and while there’s still a bit of the familiar within this title, it at least presents it all in a way that’d felt new. Instead of the Fae or “The Chosen One” who’d lost their parents, and learns their the future heir of a long lost throne or whatever to change the course of history, this story brought a subject that hasn’t been touched on as much: Witchcraft. There’s been a few books and/or series released over the years, but nothing that’s really popped or kept it’s momentum to make it a more popular theme in YA Fantasy literature, which is a damn shame…I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity for some new and interesting stories to be told with them at the forefront, and not just an ally or sidekick to vampires.
Now, as far as YA Fantasy goes, I feel like this title doesn’t necessarily fit either of those categories. It feels more like a paranormal romance since the love story between the two main characters takes center stage and drives a lot of the story, and it also feels more like New Adult with how the characters develop, and because theres a more descriptive sex scene within. I’m not saying I’m a prude, but I know we live in such a trigger society and I just recognize readers who are 16+ in age will probably enjoy it more than a 12-13 year old.
In all honesty, read whatever the fuck you want to read, censorship can go shove a pole up it’s butt in my opinion...
This title has been out for a few months at the time I’m typing this review, and one thing I love about books and their fandoms is the art that gets created! I love to see what others think the characters look like, and it just adds so much to the story and my interest from a purely aesthetic point of view–hell, I’d discovered the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas from finding random fanart on Pinterest before I’d even known what it was, and now it’s one of my favorite series of all time! Serpent & Dove is still fairly new, so there’s not a whole lot of fanart out there quite yet, but the particular piece below so far has to be my favorite, and of course it’s by one of my favorite artists that I follow on Instagram!
Check it out:
Her profile on Instagram is @gabriella.bujdoso and I seriously suggest giving her a follow, her artwork is simply amazing! Now, onto the story:
What It’s About:
The Official Blurb:
Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc had fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could find and steal. Unfortunately, witches like Lou are hunted by a special police force that has sworn to catch every last witch they can find, and burn them back to hell on a stake.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one that goes back many generations, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies are hatching a plan to bring a fate worse than fire upon their enemies. As Lou and Reid struggle to try and ignore their growing feelings for each other, she must hide her deadly secret of being the very thing that he absolutely despises and hunts.
What I Liked:
There’s Many Great Romance Tropes! We’ve got the good ole classic enemies-to-lovers trope, we’ve got the “only one bed” trope, we’ve got marriage by convenience, we’ve got one of them hides a deep secret that they never want the other to find out, and we’ve also got the sexy banter between them as a cherry on top. Overall, the romance was the big selling point for the whole story; the most exciting scenes–besides a few exceptions–were where Reid and Lou were with each other and fell in love with each other over sticky buns, sexy and witty banter, and both discovering how things are shades of grey and not just black and white in regards to the bloody history between the Church and the Witches.
The Awesome Side Characters! Some people would argue that a story is only as great as its weakest character, and I agree to a point, but luckily there’s a vast array of minor/side characters that do nothing but add to the overall story that surround Reid and Lou. First, there’s Ansel, who’s a Chasseur in training, who’s more shy and introverted and sensitive when compared to his fellow officers of the church. I personally really connected with him and his inner turmoil of self doubt and low self confidence and how he learns to stand up for himself. Him and Coco, who’s Lou’s best friend, add a great dynamic to both main characters, even though their views of the world are completely different. So I guess that means I should mention Coco, a bloodwitch who quickly became Lou’s bestfriend as they’d scavenged the streets of Cesarine in order to survive. Another character was the Archbishop. He’s absolutely vile with his sexist and puritan mind-set, and reminded me of those judgy, ultra-religious folks that look down at everyone who doesn’t meet their standards…however, he does become more interesting as the plot thickens, so don’t just cast him aside and regard him as a token antagonist for the sake of throwing one in. One last character worth mentioning is Madame Labelle. She’s the head operator of a brothel in Cesarin, but don’t write her off either; there’s plenty of secrets she’s hiding that you’ll be begging to find out!
Great Character Development! Besides their growing romance, Lou and Reid both go through an incredible amount of personal growth within themselves and become wiser and more mature characters by the end. At the beginning, they’d both hated each other and what they thought the other represented. Lou is bold, courageous, defiant, and loves to ruffle the feathers of the members of the church, Reid included. She’d narrowly escaped from a vast tragedy, and then grew up on the streets, so it makes sense how all that had caused her to put up some major walls and not let anyone in, and hide that fear behind snide remarks and a quick temper. The thing I loved most about her was her ability to not see anything in black and white; she realizes there’s depth in all aspects of the world she lives in, and discovers that even more as she gets closer to the Chasseurs and Reid. Reid is the exact opposite: he is uptight, stuffy, prudish, a rule follower, and looks down on the “heathens” who litter the streets, human and/or witch. Lou pokes at his bravado, infuriates him to no end, but finds a spirit much like her own underneath his own exterior. Reid becomes self sacrificing, and becomes more aware of those around him and their motives, and while he may not initially accept their differences, he can understand them more. Together, they both crack down the walls they’d built around themselves and are shocked to discover how much they mean to each other, and makes you believe in love conquering all. Also, total side note, but those that have compared Lou and Reid’s dynamic to that of Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar from the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo are spot on!
What I Didn’t Like:
Lack of WorldBuilding. So, what I’d gathered is how this story basically takes place in a fictional 17th Century France…but not really. People speak the French language, the clothing is similar to the times of when Marie Antoinette ruled with a heavy oversized wig, but it felt like France just got renamed to Cesarine so that it wasn’t just a historical-paranormal romance like Outlander. While most of the story didn’t need a richly thought out and creative fantasy-genre setting, the location did feel like an afterthought compared to other aspects of the book that had gotten more attention, like the history and lore behind the bloodbath of a feud with the Church and the Witches.
For a debut novel, Serpent & Dove is an impressive work of fiction. While it’s considered YA Fantasy, I’d say changing it to New Adult Paranormal Romance is a much more accurate genre depiction. Shelby Mahurin has created a wicked, twisted, dark, entrancing, and fun world filled with many unpredictable twists and turns, scorching romance, and sacrificial magic that glows golden amber in the dark of the night.
I’d recommend this title to anyone who’d enjoyed The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black, Any titles written by YA Fantasy queens like Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, or to anyone who especially enjoys the more romantic side of the Outlander franchise in both the books and the hit TV show–Reid Diggory is certainly a swoon-worthy ginger man much like Jamie Fraser.
As of right now, Serpent & Dove is going to just be a duology with its sequel, Blood & Honey, expected to–hopefully–release sometime later in 2020. I personally cannot wait to see what happens next for this story and the characters, especially with how this book ends. While I’m relieved it wasn’t a purely evil cliffhanger, it still leaves the deadly promise of much more to come!