Monday, February 27, 2023

Review: The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten

The Foxglove King
 by Hannah Whitten
Publication Date: March 7th, 2023
Hardcover. 400 pages.

About The Foxglove King:

"When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.

Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King.

Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die. Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.

But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.

The Foxglove King
is an exciting new fantasy full of courtly intrigue, poison, necromancy, and much more. I read Hannah Whitten's For the Wolf a couple years back and found myself not enjoying it quite as much as I'd anticipated, but I still wanted to give more of her work a try. I'm glad I did because I had a much better time with The Foxglove King and found myself following along with the story more smoothly. There are still plenty of tropes and somewhat predictable events in this book, but it was a fun ride overall and great option for anyone looking for an exciting new fantasy to dive into. Whitten has clearly matured as a writer and this book is proof that her storytelling is even better than it previously was. 

In The Foxglove King, we follow Lore, a poison runner whose illicit use of the power of Mortem leaves her constantly in hiding and on the run from the Church. Mortem, the power to raise the dead, is highly regulated by the Church and no non-regulated non-Church members can use it. When Lore is one day caught by the Church, she is then forced to work for them to help them find out why random villages across the land have been dying out overnight. To do this, she is paired up with monk-guard Gabriel, whose strict adherence to the Church's rules leaves her frustrated, and she is also required to try to get as close as possible to Bastian, King August's heir who is believed to be a traitor. 

The magic system in The Foxglove King is very promising and had a lot of really neat elements that kept me wanting to know more. Mortem was a really interesting concept to explore, and I liked learning more about it and how the magic system was tied so strongly to the religious components of this world. The religious aspect itself, however, did not really grab me and left me feeling a bit more lost, as it felt both convoluted and also somewhat cliche'd in how it functioned in society. I also thought the concept of the poison itself was really interesting in how people could essentially dose themselves on various poisons for highs and other effects, but I wish that was explored a bit more. Because of this, the magic felt somewhat contained in the sense that I don't think it was explored to the extent that it could have been, and for that reason I found myself wishing for just a bit more from Whitten much in the same way I felt while reading For the Wolf. That being said, I could certainly see where all of these things could be further explored in future installments in ways that would make everything much more cohesive and compelling. 

Whitten's prose is very approachable and makes this a fantasy that has depth and personality but also remains very unpretentious and easy to follow along. The dialogue also felt very modern, which sometimes made me forget that we were actually in a fantasy world that is apparently inspired by a historical time period. I know this isn't historical fiction so there's no need to adhere to any historical accuracies or anything of that sort, but it did draw me out of the world at times and it felt somewhat jarring to have such modern dialogue and actions thrust into this highly religious and historically-inspired world. 

The main issue I had with this book is an issue that I similarly struggled with in For the Wolf, and that is depth of the world-building. I never really got the sense that there was much more in this world, and it felt as though people outside of the court and main plot of the story didn't really exist or matter outside of their use as a plot device. It felt very much like the world existed for this particular court and plot rather than the world existing and us finding this story within it, if that makes any sense. Characters would mention what it was like for those outside of the court to struggle with access to things like medical care, etc., as well as hearing from Lore about her own experiences growing up, but outside of that there wasn't really any time when we saw these issues. It felt as those though they existed for our characters to talk about them. There just seemed to be a lack of interest in things that did not directly affect the main characters and their troubles, which led to the world feeling a bit compressed. 

The romance aspects were also a bit overdone and somewhat cliche, but as the same time I think for those that like this type of triangle-esque romance it will be a big hit. It's not my favorite thing, but I know a lot of people will really like it, and I appreciated that it didn't completely overtake the story. Gabriel was very typical of his typecast: big, beautiful, naive, innocent, dunce-like; and the Sun King was his own typecast: bad boy, quirky, always in trouble or breaking the rules, etc. It's very much what you'd expect, and if that's what you like then you'll absolutely love it. 

Despite the many issues I had with this book, I do think this is one I'll probably continue to see what happens next and where Whitten will take this plot. I think there's potential within this world for expansion if done right, and I would love to see more of this world and learn even more about the magic system. The Foxglove King was a perfectly entertaining story and had some really fun moments that left me feeling intrigued and curious about what was going to happen. Overall, I've given The Foxglove King a solid three stars. 

*I received a copy of The Foxglove King courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. I didn't care much for For the Wolf so I didn't request this. I think I made the right decision because I probably would have had the same issues you did.