I challenge you not to fall in love with this book. The writing is compelling, original and in some places so intense you cannot help but read on and on and on. I was certainly not prepared for it to shatter my heart into a million pieces. Originally, I assumed The Serpent King would have a supernatural element but I was so far off the mark – hence never judge a book by its cover!
The Serpent King is told from three different standpoints– Dill, Lydia & Travis who are a close-knit band of friends. They are completely different from one another but all are social outcasts in high school. They are at that age in their lives where they need to make important decisions which will ultimately change the course of their lives.
Lydia is one of my favourite female characters EVER. She is unafraid to be herself, proud of her intelligence, runs a successful fashion blog and is hilariously good at standing up to the typical high school tyrants. Unlike Dill and Travis, Lydia is lucky enough to have supportive parents that have encouraged her to be secure in who she truly is. Her dad is so lovable and clearly brilliant at being a parent.
Travis is a wonderful, odd egg filled with imagination. Although described as a physically imposing character he does not have a bad bone is his body. He constantly wears a dragon necklace and carries a staff due to his obsessesion with the Bloodfall book series. It made me reminiscent of the times I have completely and irrevocably fallen in love with a series, how I felt that it had somehow changed my life for the better.
Dill is the darker character of the three. He has a strange upbringing to say the least! His father, an imprisoned preacher who drank strychnine for fun, believed that handling poisonous snakes would demonstrate divinity. Dill’s mother blames him for his father’s imprisonment and believes he should have lied to protect him. I really, really disliked Dill’s mother throughout the whole book. She was ungrateful and deluded and frankly, a fool! I just wanted for someone to give her a good shake and scream APPRECIATE YOUR SON GOD DAMN IT (and yes, purposefully using the lords name in vain to annoy her).
About 260 pages in, this book unexpectedly broke my heart! I couldn’t stop the tears rolling down my face and was forced to take a break so I could recollect my thoughts and feelings. I had to keep reminding myself that this is fiction. Jeff Zentner writes in such a way that I identified tremendously with the Lydia, Dill & Travis and crying is simply a consequence of that. I felt what they felt and I went through what they went through. I love books that are able to create this reaction in me – I think it makes us, as readers, better people by the end of the story. It keep us in touch with humanity and teaches us to empathise.
The one thing that did not have me 100% on board was the relationship between Dill and Lydia. It was clear from the beginning that Dill had a thing for Lydia but I didn’t see many signs of it being reciprocated until after the pivotal point in the book. To me, it felt rushed but this could perhaps reflect the way in which death makes us yearn for life.
I cannot believe that this is a debut. I will have to make sure to prepare for the next title from Jeff as if he can make me that emotional from his first book; I dare to think what he will make me feel in his next! For all those who have not read this yet:
For all those who have: please let me know what your thoughts were, I’d love to hear from you!