Title: Gods & Monsters
Series: Serpent & Dove
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: July 27th, 2021 (HarperTeen)
Synopsis: After a heartbreaking loss, Lou, Reid, Beau, and Coco are bent on vengeance more than ever before—and none more so than Lou.
But this is no longer the Lou they thought they knew. No longer the Lou that captured a chasseur’s heart. A darkness has settled over her, and this time it will take more than love to drive it out.
Evil always seeks a foothold. We must not give it one.
“Hope isn’t the sickness. It’s the cure.”
Gods and Monsters picks up where the story previously left off, as Lou and company make their way towards Chateau le Blanc, still in shock from the confrontation with Morgane and the horrifying consequences. What they don’t know yet is that Lou has been possessed by Nicholina under the orders of La Voisin, who has allied with Morgane. Freeing her from the dark presence that has taken over will be a difficult task, and even if they are successful, Lou may not emerge from it as her old self.
This book was among my most anticipated finales for the year and after reading it, I have rather mixed feelings on the whole. First things first however – I love the cover of this book and the hardcover is even more stunning in person, definitely one I’m planning to add to my shelves when I get a chance. Lou’s possession, the cliffhanger upon which Blood and Honey ended, was resolved surprisingly quickly. I had expected, and even hoped, that it would play a major role for more of this book, but it was handled and done far earlier in this book than I anticipated. Several plot points that seemed irrelevant in book 2 were connected and made much more sense this time around.
“Deep down, I’d known how this would end all along. I’d sensed it from the moment we’d first met, from the time I’d first glimpsed the Balisarda in his bandolier—two star-crossed lovers brought together by fate or providence. By life and by death. By gods, or perhaps monsters. We would end with a stake and a match.”
While Lou and Reid were once more the POV characters, I felt that it was the secondary characters who shone, particularly Coco and Beau and also Celie and Jean-Luc, who initially didn’t seem to be doing much but evolved pretty well throughout the story into actually likeable characters. I had also hoped to see more of Morgane in this book, but she was barely a focus of the plot until the finale, which was rather disappointing because as the major villain, she really should have had more page time. On the plus side, Lou and Reid’s banter that I so missed in Blood and Honey made a reappearance, and it was so nice to see them act like themselves again.
The pacing was, once again, a highly problematic piece of the book. For the first 200 pages or so, it seemed to crawl. To be honest, if I wasn’t already behind on my reading schedule, the first quarter of the book alone would have convinced me to lay it aside for a couple of days. While the pacing did improve a bit after that, it felt quite choppy and I couldn’t get a clear picture of the direction of the plot until nearly the 75% mark, when it began to feel like a series finale. This book’s saving grace was that there was enough going on to keep me interested and reading, if horribly confused, until the pieces finally started coming together. The bottom line is that there were several sequences that did not have to be dragged out as much as they did, fascinating and relevant to the plot as they might have been. This book could have easily been at least a 100 pages shorter without losing any vital plot points.
There was one thread that I absolutely hated, and I’m too annoyed to not talk about it in this review, so spoilers ahead, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know. Gods and Monsters provides a perfect example of how to ruin a beautiful character arc. It took the better part of two books for Reid to get over his prejudices and accept witches and his own magic, and it all fell apart in a single chapter because of the wretched memory loss trope. I get the point of it, of course, that despite him losing his memory, he still works his way back to Lou and falls in love with her again, but as a reader, it’s among the most frustrating tropes I can come across and felt completely unnecessary.
The final battle, as expected, was chaotic, but also quite well handled, considering how high the stakes had been ratcheted up for the moment. But the ending just felt a little…unrealistic to me. Centuries of hatred and prejudice are not ended in a single day and by a single fight, so the aftermath and how quickly everything seemed to come together didn’t sit quite right.
All in all however, I adore a happy ending just as much as anyone else, and there were a few moments when I genuinely thought this might end up a star crossed tragedy, so I was pleased enough by this finale. The epilogue, particularly who narrated it, was a really sweet touch and the perfect way to end this series. While the first book still remains my favorite, I would still recommend this trilogy as a whole to any fantasy fans as it was a truly enjoyable read.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: