Blood & Honey: Serpent & Dove, Book 2

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Blood & Honey: Serpent & Dove, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Witchy sequel enchants yet has serious stumbles.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in a fictional, French-inspired territory called Belterra, the story draws on French folklore and the history of so-called witches.

Positive Messages

Power can corrupt, but it doesn't have to. Everyone has the capacity to harm and to heal; you must decide which you want to nurture more. Take responsibility when you're wrong. Conflict is normal in friendships and relationships, honesty and talking about conflicts can be scary and hard, but is the only way to strengthen a relationship and the people in it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lou and Reed struggle to come to terms with who they are, and hurt each other, friends, and family as they begin to grow emotionally and interpersonally. Lou sometimes shows pleasure as she uses magic to hurt. Secondary characters are resourceful, funny, fierce in protecting their friends and their mission. Main characters appear to be White, but well-developed secondary characters are described as dark-skinned or Black. Lou and Reed are an opposite-gender couple, and some secondary characters are gay and bisexual.  

Violence

Lots of gory violence and deaths from magic, daggers, swords, and hand-to-hand fighting. A particularly disturbing scene involves a powerful witch who presents the bodies of people she's cruelly tortured to death to a captive audience of bystanders under her spell.

Sex

An early scene involves Lou and Reed attempting to have sex as several friends try to sleep around them, one who has to forcefully object to get them to stop. An explicit sex scene between same-sex consenting young adults is tastefully done, including seeking consent as the sex progresses. Past sex acts of other characters are referenced or described a couple of times.  

Language

Regular use of "damn," "bitch," "ass," "s--t," "f--k," and variants.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink mead, wine, and beer a few times throughout the book. One character says she's drunk in one scene.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Blood & Honey is the second book in Shelby Mahurin's Serpent & Dove trilogy. Lou and Reed are back with their magic and up against more than ever. Lou's powerful mother, La Dame de Sorcières, is seeking their death, but not before she crushes their souls. The world is infused with French folklore and occasional French words, while the themes and messages stress the importance of self-acceptance, self-determination, and communication. Main characters are White, and well-developed secondary characters are described as dark-skinned or Black. Though the main romance is between an opposite-gender couple, gay and bisexual characters are casually included. The action has lots of gory violence and bloody deaths from magic, daggers, swords, and hand-to-hand fighting. There's a loving, explicit sex scene between same-sex consenting young adults. Strong language includes the regular use of "damn," "bitch," "ass," "s--t," "f--k," and their variants.

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What's the story?

BLOOD & HONEY follows Lou, Reed, and their friends as they hide from Morgane, or La Dame de Sorcières, who attempted to sacrifice Lou, her daughter, at the end of Book 1. They need some powerful allies, even if those allies have been enemies in the past, so they pursue help from the blood witches and werewolves. Lou and Reed's romance crumbles as Lou welcomes in the dark side of her magic, and Reed, the former witch huntsman, refuses his own witch magic and rejects the good it can do. Various relationships between Lou, Reed, and secondary characters Coco, Ansel, Beau, and Madame LaBelle complicate their mission to defeat Morgane. An encounter with a mysterious theater troupe, whose members have secrets of their own, bolsters their chances of winning against Morgane. An ominous twist sets readers up for the final book in this trilogy.

Is it any good?

This witty, richly imagined sequel certainly enchants, but it's not without serious stumbles. The intricately rendered world of Blood & Honey mostly avoids getting bogged down as it balances many relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial); two systems of magic; werewolves; a monarchy; the magic-hating, religious witch hunters; and an intriguing theater troupe. The smart and funny banter from Book 1 is carried over here. There are new and fascinating characters. Refreshingly, women take on most of the leadership roles.

Problems include an early scene in which Lou and Reed try to have sex surrounded by sleeping friends. One awakes and has to tell them to cool off several times before they actually do. Later, Lou and Beau make fun of a poor, dirty barmaid with missing teeth. Reed and Lou can be annoyingly angsty. Useless character flaws don't help readers feel invested, so why include them at all? Also, Lou and Reed's super-hot romance is, regrettably, on ice for much of this story. All that said, readers will probably get swept up in the quest to defeat Morgane, and with lots of compelling themes and subplots, this is still a worthy read as fans await the final book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the dark side of magic in Blood & Honey. What about the dark side is so attractive to Lou? What are some real-world ways teens struggle with choosing to do the right things? How can you support friends in making choices that don't hurt themselves or others?

  • How do the girls and women in Blood & Honey break stereotypes about being a woman? Are there ways in which they conform to stereotypes? How are they positive role models?

  • Have you read other fantasy books with witchcraft and various magical creatures? How do the world and systems of magic in this book compare with those in other stories you know?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy

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