Once in a while, I’ll pick up a book I’m not expecting much from, just because it’s something different. Sometimes I don’t enjoy them. Sometimes I like them just fine. And sometimes, rarely, I fall head-over-heels in love with them. Jeff Zentner’s debut novel, The Serpent King is one of the rare kind.
Dillard Early Jr. is afraid of snakes. He’s also the grandson of the legendary Serpent King, and the son of a Pentecostal minister famous for his use of snakes in his services. And when his father’s sent to prison, Dill feels even more trapped than ever in a life he doesn’t love. He and his friends – fashion blogger Lydia and fantasy-obsessed, staff-carrying Travis – have to survive their senior year without letting the small-town culture stifle their creativity. At the end of the year, Lydia’s planning on joining her fashionable friends at NYU, Travis is going to work full time at his father’s lumber yard, and Dill’s going to have to face his dark legacy one way or another. But life has different plans for them.
The Serpent King far exceeded my expectations. It was a one-of-a-kind poignant debut that left me reeling. Maybe once every year or two, I read a book that completely breaks me and leaves me sobbing into the pages. Or, in this case, the screen on my iPad (I received a digital ARC for review). The Serpent King is one of those books that will live with me for a long time.
Things I love about this book: That it addresses issues I’m passionate about in an intelligent, but almost imperceptible way. That the dysfunctional family dynamic was hard and real, and not full of unnecessary drama. That the characters were relatable and entirely unique. That the writing was honest and unembellished. That it seemed to incorporate a million different genres in subtle little ways. And that it all just worked.
Just in case it wasn’t obvious, I loved The Serpent King, and rated it five out of five stars. It will be released on March 8th, and I plan on heading over to the bookstore that day to pick myself up a hard copy of this book, because it’s one I need in my collection. You can do the same, or preorder a copy here.
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.