A Maiden of Snakes by Jane McGarry

Publisher: JM Books

Date of publication: August 28th, 2022

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Marchioness Lamberico fails to conceive a child, she solicits the help of Imelda, the village witch. Nine months later, she gives birth to a baby girl. Biancabella. Though perfect in every other way, the infant is born with a snake wrapped around her neck. To the relief of the marchioness, the creature vanishes at once and, in the joy of motherhood, is soon forgotten. When Biancabella is a young girl, the snake reappears and explains their uncommon sisterhood. Samaritana helps Biancabella unlock her magical gifts and asserts that so long as they are together, all will be well. Their close, though secret, relationship unites them above all others. Years pass, the sisters contented, until the day King Ferrandino of Naples arrives, seeking Biancabella’s hand in marriage. What follows shatters the sisters’ bond, leading to misfortune and betrayal, which forces them to grapple with not only the loss of their connection, but leaves each fighting for her life. Loosely based on the Italian fairy tale Biancabella and the Snake, the story explores how the love can transform from a domineering and covetous power to authenticity and, ultimately, redemption.


First Line:

The day was perfect, a warm spring sun in a cloudless sky.

A Maiden of Snakes by Jane McGarry

When I got the invite to review A Maiden of Snakes, I hesitated to accept the invite for the review. The blurb didn’t stand out to me. After taking a couple of days to think about it, I accepted the invitation. My reason was this: My blog started off reviewing indie authors, and I have made it a point to accept any/all invites that come across my inbox. Well, I am glad I accepted because this book was excellent!!!

A Maiden of Snakes had an exciting storyline. Biancabella is the much-loved child of lesser Italian nobility. A miracle child, she was born with a snake wrapped around her neck. When she was ten, she met with her snake sister (Samaritana) and completed a bonding ritual. But that ritual comes with a price. Biancabella must always stay with her Samaritana. If she does, life will be great. But if they are separated, then bad things will happen to Biancabella. Biancabella doesn’t heed Samaritana’s warning and is married to the King of Naples. Intrigue follows her to court, where her stepmother-in-law looks at her as someone to get rid of. When a deadly sickness overtakes the city, her stepmother-in-law jumps, she has Biancabella kidnapped and leaves instructions for her to be killed. Samaritana interrupts Biancabella’s killer, but it is almost too late. The assassin had cut off her hands. What will happen to Biancabella? Will she and Samaritana make up? Or will Biancabella live with the kindly woodcutter and his family forever? And, more importantly, will the evil stepmother get away with everything she has done?

A Maiden of Snakes is a fast-paced book set in medieval Italy. This book takes place in Monferrato and Naples. I enjoyed seeing glimpses of what these cities were like back in medieval times.

The characters of A Maiden were Snakes were interesting. But I did find them a little underdeveloped.

Biancabella: I liked her but found her almost too innocent and trusting. I also didn’t like that she could easily brush off Samaritana’s concerns because “she was in love.” Towards the end of the book, I found her character much more engaging than the innocent little miss portrayed until the assassin took her from the castle.

Samaritana: I liked her also and thought she was very wise in some ways. But her jealousy when Biancabella met and married Ferrandino got on my nerves. I had wished that elder snakes had stayed to advise her. I also felt that her jealousy caused a lot of Biancabella’s issues when she was in Naples. But Samaritana did come through when Biancabella needed her.

Ferrandino: He annoyed the ever living out of me. How could he not see what his stepmother was doing? How could he not see what she did to his father? And when faced with Biancabella’s stepsister (who was forced to take her place), why didn’t he SAY SOMETHING!!! I was so annoyed with him; it wasn’t even funny. Of course, he did make up for it in the end.

The Stepmother: She was one of the evilest, vile villains to grace the pages of a book. Everything she did in A Maiden of Snakes was for her. She showed no mercy to Biancabella when the plague hit the castle. She knew Biancabella was pregnant and STILL told the mercenary to kill her. She got what she deserved and then some at the end of the book.

The Woodcutter and His Family: Besides Biancabella, he was one of the book’s only good people. He found a critically injured and maimed young woman and brought her back to his house to nurse her back to health. They were prepared to take care of her for the rest of her life (even if Biancabella did have other plans). And when the author revealed Biancabella’s identity (along with Samaritana), they helped to get Biancabella back into Ferrandino’s life (and get rid of the stepmother). They were the MVPs of this book.

A Maiden of Snakes has many secondary characters that flesh out the storylines. They made the scenes more enjoyable (and sometimes sad) to read. There were some that I wished stayed in the story (the elder snakes, for one).

I wasn’t entirely sure what genre to put A Maiden of Snakes. I decided upon Young Adult (Biancabella was around 18), Fantasy (Samaritana did have magic, as did Biancabella), and Romance (Biancabella’s love for Ferrandino and his for her). Romance, I am still undecided. I want to say yes because of the love they had for each other, but at the same time, I want to say no. I do feel that this book fits very well into the young adult and fantasy genres.

Oh yes, before I forget, this entire book was based on the Italian fairytale (Biancabella and the Snake) by Giovanni Francesco Straperola for his book The Facetious Nights.

I liked the storyline with Biancabella and Samaritana. I wish more time had been spent with them, not apart, but I understood the author was following the fairytale.

The storyline with Ferrandino, Biancabella, and his stepmother was sad. There was a point in that storyline where I thought Ferrandino wouldn’t get his HEA with Biancabella. I felt the stepmother got everything coming to her and then some. So, yes, I was thrilled when everything came to a head at the end of the book.

Some trigger warnings do need to be discussed in A Maiden of Snakes. They would be infertility, abandonment (Samaritana’s elder snakes), child abuse (stepmother beating her daughters), a graphic scene where Biancabella’s hands are cut off, and she is beaten, and what happened to the stepmother. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of A Maiden of Snakes was your typical fairytale ending. Everyone got their HEA. I am hoping that Samaritana gets hers in another book.

Three things I liked about A Maiden of Snakes:

  1. It takes place in medieval Italy
  2. Biancabella and Samaritana’s relationship
  3. Based on a fairytale

Three things I didn’t like about A Maiden of Snakes

  1. Samaritana’s jealousy
  2. The stepmother
  3. The blurb/cover

I would recommend A Maiden of Snakes to anyone over 21. There is no sex or language but graphic violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.


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