The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

22752127A dark, southern gothic novel about small-town dreams, love and grief.
Dill’s father is in jail for an unspeakable crime. Shunned by the neighbours in their small religious Tennessee town, Dill and his mother try to make ends meet.
Dill’s only respite from poverty and prejudice are his two friends: Lydia and Travis.

Travis is an oddball, finding sanctuary from his violent father in his obsession with an epic fantasy saga.

Lydia is fast-talking and fiercely creative, pinning her hopes on her achingly cool fashion blog.

Dill fears his heart will break when she escapes to a better life in New York.
Dill wants to get through his final year of high school in one piece. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of his family, a serpent poisoning his blood, filling him with despair. Dill must confront this legacy of madness and desperation before it tears him apart.

This book, guys! This. Book. I can’t believe I left it sitting for so long on my shelf before reading it. Sacrilege of the highest order! I picked this baby up on Sunday evening and refused to go to bed until I had finished it… and finish it I did, at 2:30AM with a work day looming in sight. I went to bed a sobbing, blubbering mess. The Emotional Hangover sat by my bed like a loyal Alsatian waiting for me to wake up for work. Hiiiii *waves to The Emotional Hangover*, nice of you to show up, yo, it’s been a while!

Somewhere I saw someone call this book ‘tragedy porn’. How fitting… So, if this book is tragedy porn, consider me a paying, drooling, fidgety customer!  Thanks Book Depository for delivering me tragedy porn.

The characters were far from flat. In fact- Dill, Lydia and Travis have all existed somewhere in the timeline of my life, sometimes in me. Sometimes in the people I knew. Dill, an exhibition of a confused mind, lingering guilt and a victim of childhood brainwashing. He’s lost, even though he has ambition, he wants something more, something better, but his upbringing is like a ton of iron chains around his feet and his family’s history like a double-barrelled shotgun at his temple. His rock bottom was real and familiar, and I always believed that in order to get better you need to hit rock bottom. That said, it sadly doesn’t work out this way for everyone.

“What’s Joy Division and New order?”

Shit. Dill had a peculiar genius, honed over his years of friendship with Lydia, at turning any band into a Christian band on the spot. Arcade Fire? Refers to the fires of hell that those who forsake Christ in favor of video games will experience. Fleet Foxes? Refers to the Bible story in which Samson captured foxes, tied torches to their tails, and let them burn in the fields of the Philistines. Radiohead? Refers to how human minds have to be living conduits to the Holy Spirit, akin to radio antennas.

Travis- ha! His admirable ability to become disconnected from reality. His wanderings into the fantasy. A gentle giant seems like a fitting description here…  I loved his ability to tune out the bullying at school but my heart broke for the way he was being treated by his father…  No man, no matter how tame, will forever keep turning the other cheek and I don’t blame Travis for seeing red, the very few times he did. But he had resolve and determination to change things and just when he does… *sigh*

Lydia-  A typical young woman, no? Playful, a bit crazy, trying to find her own place and overly ambitious… Sure, I didn’t agree with her comfortably ‘erasing’ her friends from her blog, but wasn’t the whole idea of the book to sample human mistakes? Of making them, admitting them, regretting them? Yes, she gets a bit too arrogant. Yes, she needs to be knocked down a peg. That’s all a process of maturing, testing the boundaries, and lessons from life will not go easy on her..

The book, overall, was a total and utter breeze for me with its easy to follow writing style and good pace. Yes, this is not really a plot driven novel. A good novel doesn’t have to be plot driven. A great novel can be entirely about characters and their 100 mile obstacle marathon. Sure, you need to care for and connect to the characters to not need a multi-world, multi-level, complicated plot.  Was the book predictable, shallow and boring? No. It most certainly wasn’t. Not for me. I love the dark- sometimes it presents opportunities to discover more, to be dragged under and to be brought back up again. Sometimes the dark helps us feel as alive as the light can. Sometimes the dark helps us value the light just that much more- *emo alert right here*

5***** from me, anyway.





  1. WHOOHOOO! The highest of fives for you!! (plus, I’m very relieved to see you liked it this much as well 😉 ). As for the negative rants on this one somewhere else…*coughs* fuck’em *coughs*. I thought it was amazing. Dill, Lydia and Travis have all existed somewhere in the timeline of my life, sometimes in me.. Now that’s some deep shit Liis! 😀 And totally how I felt like as well. Fantastic review, again :D. You just keep shaking them out of your sleeve aren’t ya?!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Sure, the book had the Anne-certified stamp on it. How could I not like it? 😉
      Yeah, the negatives… made me scracth my head a bit,,, I was trying to think why people hated it… not mainstream enough? I don’t know. I probably read too much in between the lines as well, guilty as charged, but man, that’s just life there!

      Ah, deep… hehehe… yeah, thanks, Anne! 🙂 I’m on a roll with books.. even though I DNFd a book a couple of days ago… or maybe reality is just so boring that any book will do! XD

      Liked by 2 people

      • Haha! Because Anne ain’t no Oprah! (though those books aren’t always the greatest either…anywhoooo!) I have no idea, you’d think it would do well with fans of contemporary stuff? But maybe there wasn’t enough smoochy romance in it. But yes, life! 🙂 Hahaha *offers 50 Shades of Tinsel* ;).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Can you believe a blogger said this story was the “same old, same old”? When I called her out on it she changed her profile so only her friends can see her reviews. Bah ha! How many stories had she read with Pentecostal snake handling parents? I am going to go out on a limb and say, ZERO. I am so happy you loved this book, too. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • hahahaa, same old, same old my ass! 😀
      The serpent King was so good, I want to read every other book by the author… he could be writing about sparkling vampires but I’m sure he would still manage to pull a wicked twist and heartbreaking realistic plot to it…

      Liked by 1 person

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