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Literature / Dove Keeper

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"Some of them are there, yes, in the dove room, kept locked up and safe. They’re sensitive birds."

"When her husband returned home from work, Rosalie asked who he killed."

Some doors are best left closed.

World War I. Rennes, France. Children have been disappearing in the town, and everyone is on edge. As tensions run high both in the world and at home, thirteen-year-old Marcy, the executioner's overprotected daughter, desperately craves companionship and latches onto the first person she meets after her home life becomes maddening.

However, when Marcy visits her mysterious friend's creepy manor and curiosity takes over, she discovers that things aren't quite what they seem. Everyone acts oddly, from the reticent servants to the outgoing but traumatized master of the house, Jehanne's father.

Meanwhile, the story also follows Marcy's plucky (if a tad oblivious) new friend Jehanne as the events at the manor grow stranger, and Rosalie, Marcy's reclusive mother, as she struggles to overcome trauma and keep her family together—and alive.


In the vein of Crimson Peak, The Bloody Chamber, and The Others (2001), Dove Keeper is a Gothic Horror novel with undercurrents of the fairy tale "Bluebeard."

Dove Keeper contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Marcy and Rosalie survive a great deal throughout the story while being completely normal people caught in the fray.
  • Affably Evil: Gilles is very friendly to his guests, casual misogyny and anti-English bigotry aside.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Marcy's parents refer to her as poupee, or "poppet." Jehanne's father calls her "pup" or, less frequently, "darling." Anatole refers to Rosalie as mon couer, or "my heart."
  • Alcoholic Parent: Jehanne’s father loves his wine. Unlike many examples, the alcoholism, treated as a coping mechanism, isn't directly linked to abusive behavior. At least, not before he slaps Jehanne for mouthing off to him, which may or may not have been an impulse caused partially by his recent drinking.
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  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Rosalie and Clair. Marcy notes their similarities in demeanor and appearance more than once.
  • Animal Motifs: Both Jehanne and her father are associated with wolves. Besides doves, there's also constant references to different birds, such as nightingales and crows.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Jehanne's father definitely does not believe in vampires, ghosts, and silly superstitions. Demons, on the other hand . . .
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Gilles is a rapist, murderer, and literal demon. He's also very wealthy and will do anything to keep it that way.
  • Back from the Dead: Jehanne and Gilles de Rais. Gilles came back to life as a demon after his execution, and then he spent centuries sacrificing enough children to pull Jehanne out of Heaven.
  • Blood Magic/Human Sacrifice: For centuries, Gilles de Rais has tortured and killed children to bring Jehanne back to life.
  • Broken Bird: Rosalie and Clair are both stern, cynical, and stoic because of past trauma, though just how much changes based on their personal interactions.
  • Creepy Catholicism: Much of the religious symbolism, especially in the manor, consists of unsettling imagery.
  • Damsel in Distress/Distressed Dude: Though all the characters experience general distress at one point or another, Marcy and Andre become this. However, Marcy ultimately saves Andre with the help of her mother and friend.
  • Deal with the Devil: How Gilles de Rais was resurrected and eventually brought Joan of Arc back to life.
  • Death Amnesia: Jehanne is Joan of Arc and has no memory of her past life.
  • Death of a Child: The less grotesque example, though still terrible, is Roger's death. The most grotesque examples are the hundreds of children Gilles killed, including the boy in the prologue.
  • Demon Slaying: Gilles pretends to do it, and Jehanne does it for real when she kills him and Moreau.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Gilles is very depraved and happens to be bisexual. However, this is averted with Marcy, who is bisexual without the depravity.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: There are allusions to "Bluebeard" and "Little Red Riding Hood". Some characters are associated with blue, which is linked to death, particularly the losses or murders of children; Jehanne and her father are both described as having wolfish or lupine faces.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Sanguine: Marcy. She is cheerful and compassionate, but too trusting and very disorganized compared to the more strategic characters around her.
    • Choleric: Andre. He is task-oriented and outgoing, but hot-tempered, impulsive, and, at times, cruel when angered or humiliated.
    • Melancholic: Rosalie. She's introspective and practical; she also tries to do what is best for those she loves, but her high expectations and anxiety undermine her best efforts.
    • Phlegmatic: Anatole. He's introverted, patient, and nonconfrontational to a fault. As much as he wants to help those he loves, by the time he figures out there's an issue with his family, tensions have already escalated beyond anyone's control.
  • Ghost Story: Marcy loves reading these. She has trouble recounting them to anyone, since they're all rather morbid.
  • Gothic Horror: The story fits many of the tropes of Gothic horror, though the time period is shortly after the Gothic craze died out.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Played straight with Jehanne who, despite her obstinate and blunt nature, ultimately decides to help others. Averted with Gilles and Moreau.
  • Happily Married: Despite heartbreak and complications, Rosalie and Anatole do love one another.
  • Haunted House: The manor is haunted, though the exact nature is not fully revealed until Marcy visits Jehanne.
  • Heroic BSoD: Most of the characters experience this somewhere.
    • Marcy experiences one when she finds a cavern full of dead children below the manor.
    • Rosalie collapses and goes blank when she thinks Marcy has died.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jehanne sacrifices herself, taking Gilles down with her.
  • Historical Domain Character: The Deiblers and Andre Obrecht are based off the author’s real-life distant relatives. Anatole Deibler was a French executioner who executed four-hundred men. Jehanne and her father are Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais, two fifteenth-century historical figures.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: It’s possible the real Gilles de Rais was not guilty of the crimes he was executed for.
  • Kill It with Fire: How Jehanne died in her first life. Also, this is the eventual fate of the manor.
  • The Killer in Me: Jehanne begins to believe she’s a demon being kept at bay after she learns of her father’s abusive nature. She’s not.
  • Kissing Cousins: Seems to be Marcy’s intention with Andre, to Rosalie’s dismay. Andre doesn't reciprocate.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Jehanne’s “father.”
  • Marital Rape License: Even before they were married, Gilles kidnapped and raped Catherine so nobody else would marry her in a brutal aversion of Abduction Is Love.
  • Noble Bigot/Politically Incorrect Villain: Gilles insults the English, Protestants, the working class, women . . . and he compliments Marcy for being smart, despite her German heritage.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Gilles never outright states what he is, and he expresses distaste toward "pagan" beliefs because of his religion.
  • Off with His Head!: The official means of capital punishment in France, the story’s setting, until 1981. Marcy discovers Gilles does this with some of his victims. Also, Moreau’s final fate.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Anatole and Rosalie outlived their firstborn, and Rosalie is adamant this won't happen again. Jehanne's parents outlived her, too.
  • Parental Substitute: Rosalie and Anatole are this for Andre, whose mother, Rosalie's younger sister, died from consumption and left him without parents.
  • Proper Lady: Rosalie has shades of this from growing up in the late 19th century.
  • Police Are Useless: There are definitely police officers who show up to emergencies. It just doesn't go over very well for anyone involved.
  • The Reveal: Quite a few.
    • Rosalie not only lost her sister and mother, but also a newborn son within the same timeframe.
    • Jehanne's father abused and raped her mother, meaning she was likely conceived by rape.
    • Jehanne's father isn't her father at all, though he did hurt his wife. He's Gilles de Rais, a commander from the Hundred Years War and serial killer of children, and she's Joan of Arc. He came back to life after his execution and sacrificed children for centuries until she came back to life through his efforts.
    • Andre is under the manor after trying to save a child.
    • The child from the prologue caused the nightly disturbance. His tongue had been cut out, so he could only scream, which sounded inhuman and prompted the Deiblers to call the police and stay inside instead of going out and seeing him. He's the dead child Marcy finds under the manor with the key in his mouth, and Andre had futilely tried to save him before being captured.
    • A small one. Jehanne recognizes the name "Catherine" when her "father" mentions his wife's name. Catherine was indeed his wife's name, but Jehanne recognizes the name because it was her sister's.
  • Serial Killer: Gilles de Rais, who has murdered hundreds of children for his own needs, including resurrecting Joan of Arc.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Jehanne's father speaks about being in the Great War, and he’s very much affected by what he saw. Jehanne fears worrying or overstimulating him because of his frail nerves.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: France is embroiled in a war that leaves many dead, bitter, or traumatized. As well as that, all the surviving protagonists are left deeply traumatized by the novel’s events. That being said, Rosalie makes amends with Marcy and Andre, and she is able to communicate the grief and anxiety she’s endured for years.
  • The Stoic: Clair, which makes it striking when she becomes Not So Stoic.
  • The Unfavorite: Both Andre and Marcy feel like this when it comes to their aunt/mother Rosalie.
  • Vampire Fiction: Gilles and Moreau exhibit traits of vampires and ghouls, respectively. However, Gilles is a demon.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: All the Deiblers did exist, as did Andre Obrecht, and Anatole Deibler was a public French executioner. Even the dog existed. Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais were real people too. However, the story’s heavy horror elements are fictional.
  • Villainous BSoD: Gilles when Jehanne realizes his true nature and his cover is blown.
  • Wicked Cultured: Gilles is very well-read, but also evil.
  • World War I: Though WWI, or The Great War, is almost over by the time the novel takes place, the characters don't know that.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Gilles hurts children and forces Moreau to do the same.