New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman entwines the real scandals of history with epic fantasy in this action-packed follow-up to EMPIRE OF DUST.
In REIGN OF SERPENTS, the ancient power of Snake Blood threatens the known world. While Prince Alexander struggles with a very deadly inner demon, his betrothed, Zofia, is on her way to him, to unite their kingdoms…even as she begins to realize where her true allegiance lies. The fierce Cynane meets her match-not in her future husband, the deranged king of Illyria, but in her great-great-grandfather, Talus, possessor of Smoke Blood, who will teach her the true meaning of betrayal. And marooned together on an island in the Mediterranean, romantic tension blooms between Katerina and Hephaestion as they learn of lost civilizations and discover a device that could help them do the impossible: kill the last living god.
I am unapologetically giving this book a 5 star rating because once again I am blown away. Lately, I’ve noticed that when I’m reading the newest installment of a series, YA in particular, I worry that it’s not going to live up to my expectations and seeing as I’ve been burned pretty badly recently (yes, I’m talking to you, Damaged Like Us) my feelings are pretty justified. Thank god that this didn’t happen here. This series is so completely underrated, like more than some of my other underrated favourites. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one on my Goodreads that actually reads this series but I don’t really care. I will admit that the initial reason I picked this series up is because there’s a character named Hephaestion which reminded me of my favourite Greek God Hephaestus but at this point the “why” doesn’t matter. This series is definitely one of my favourites and I wish other people would read it and love it as much as I do. I’m gonna do this review a little bit differently than my usual reviews. Because this is the third book of the series, I’m not really going to touch upon the mechanics of the book as heavily as I usually do and I’ll mainly focus on the plot and overall development. There will be some spoilers here so the SPOILER ALERT is officially in effect.
- I feel like I’ve talked about this so many times but one of the things that I believe truly makes or breaks a book is its POVs. When you enter one with multiple POVs there’s always that one that you can’t stand or one that doesn’t make sense. Up until this book, the main POVs always alternated between the core six: Alexander, Katerina, Hephaestion, Jacob, Cynane, and Zofia. Occasionally, Herman would slip in Olympias just as a contrasting/villain POV but it wasn’t too often. But in this installment, in every Act there would be one “out of place” POV and at first I was incredibly worried. I didn’t want to deal with random POVs that wouldn’t really matter and I didn’t want this to be the reason that I hated this book. I feel like I’ve been heavily scarred from The Raven King where so many unnecessary POVs happened and the one that should’ve been included never really was. Thankfully I was proven wrong. All of these “random” POVs mattered and mainly served the same purpose that Olympias’ served in the previous books. Like I mentioned in my review for Our Dark Duet, these POVs served to be the “other side” of the story, the villainous side, and help you to see the whole story and ultimately serve as plot twists. I’m glad that these new POV additions turned out to be so important.
- Speaking of plot twists, this book had some of the best plot twists I’ve ever encountered. And they weren’t your typical end-of-book plot twists either; I’m pretty sure there was a huge plot twist in every Act of this book. So many times I found myself gasping out loud and yelling “no!!” at this book because I could not believe these plot twists! They were insane! Eleanor Herman is definitely the queen of plot twists.
- I really enjoyed seeing how all of these characters are continuing to develop, especially Katerina. She begins to have a hard time in this book and questions her identity and purpose a lot and I think it’s really important that she went through that. She needed to discover who she is and what she believes in, ultimately accepting herself, before giving her heart away to someone. She becomes tempted in the end to become something she fears, and she almost gives in, but she doesn’t and I admire that she not only discovers who she is but she stays true to it. I’m enjoying how Hephaestion is developing as well and how he’s no longer the cocky lord we first see him as. His backstory is truly heartbreaking and at this point in his life he just needs people who love and believe in him and I think he’s finally become the person worthy of that. While I feel like these two characters are thriving in their development, Jacob and Cynane aren’t necessarily un-developing, but they’re definitely on their way to being some sort of antagonist but that’s ok! I wouldn’t want to see every one in this story be the perfect hero and I ultimately feel like this is the role that Cynane and Jacob are supposed to have. They’re the ones who are flawed and cause trouble. Jacob is definitely the instigator in this series; he always thinks that he’s doing the right thing and he can save the day but he just ruins everything even further. Like he thought he could trick a God, a fricking God, and all he ended up doing was destroying Delphi. And I hate that his entire motive is just to impress Kat like come on bro, she’s moved on it’s time you did too. Cynane almost got me to respect her with all her feminist values and beliefs but she did something in the end that kind of ruined all of that so yeah, that’s not happening anymore. I personally don’t like either of them but it’s better that way. I hope they remain as antagonists/anti-heroes.
- One thing I want to touch upon regarding the writing is that I still think it’s very well done. I like how while this is set in ancient civilizations and involves a lot of royalty, there isn’t too much formality and stiffness in the way that the characters think or speak. This is the one thing that drove me nuts in Three Dark Crowns and I noticed that this book had a good balance of formality and casualness. Also, I feel like the mix between actual history and fiction is done very well. You’d think that since I was a history major I’d be super pissed about this but I’m not. I know that I’m not supposed to take this at face value nor do I believe that any of this is actually true but the influences make the nerd in me very happy.
- The one thing that people mostly criticize about this series is that it’s not historically accurate. While I just mentioned this above, I still feel like it’s important to state it again in this category. It doesn’t bother me, but it bothers a lot of other people. That being said, although it’s not historically accurate, Herman still knows her stuff. I’ve noticed that at the end of each of these books in her author’s notes she explains all the historical influences she’s used in her books, talking about what they meant in history and how it inspired various aspects of her books. This is a good thing to take away. You can’t really say that she doesn’t respect history because she actually does! In my opinion, she’s just spinning it in a way that’s entertaining and to me that’s fine. This isn’t something that we’re supposed to be viewing as some kind of academic source (I would never use this as a source for one of my papers) and as long as you understand that going into this book then you’ll be ok.
- The only actual bad thing I can say about this is that I feel like too much time passed between reading the second book and reading this one and therefore I didn’t remember everything that happened. Yes, there were a lot of recaps woven into the story, and usually that’s something that bugs me especially when you’re reading a finished series all the way through, but I feel like there could’ve been a tad bit more. That’s just me though, since I have the worst memory in the world so someone else might say differently.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- If you like stories that are loosely based on history for entertainment value then you should definitely pick up this series. It’ll keep you on your toes, that’s for sure.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Reign of Serpents (Blood of Gods and Royals #3)
Author: Eleanor Herman
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!