Author: Hannah Whitten
In this lush, romantic new epic fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Hannah Whitten, a young woman’s secret power to raise the dead plunges her into the dangerous and glamorous world of the Sainted King’s royal court.
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 the first novel in the Nightshade Crown trilogy. I first became interested in Whitten’s work with her Wilderwood series and could not wait to read more. This trilogy is set in a completely new world with a different tone, so I was excited to discover it. Lore has been working for a poison running operation since she was younger after being taken in when she appeared in the Catacombs of Dellarie. After using her secret death magic, called Mortem, to evade capture, she is caught by the king’s warrior monks, the Presque Mort. To avoid death as a punishment, she is sentenced to a mission to investigate sudden deaths in the surrounding villages and determine if the Sun Prince, Bastian, is involved by the Sainted King of Dellaire, August. She is aided in this journey by one of the Presque Mort, Gabriel.
The romance in this story is, unfortunately, a love triangle. While I am not a fan of this trope, I do try to give it a fair chance in case it turns out well. Since this is the first novel in a trilogy, I can’t fully judge it yet, but it did feel like it needs more exploration to get me to connect to it. Individually, the three characters had a lot of potential and interesting backstories. They each had flaws and motivations that I connected with and wanted to learn more about. The romance seemed to be more telling than showing when it came to the attraction the characters shared. For Gabe, I felt he opened up to Lore too early as it did not seem to match what was shown to the reader. Instead, it was told in a way and the same went for the romantic connection between Lore and Bastian. There is potential to make this a romance that I root for, no matter which suitor Lore chooses, but I did not connect to it in this novel.
The world of Dellaire is full of political intrigue mixed with magical system. It does take a bit of time to get into the story where I did find myself putting the book down a few times before picking it back up to finish the story. Even though it did take a few sittings to finish, it was well worth it by the end, and I cannot wait to read the sequel when it comes out. As the first novel in the trilogy, there are a lot of pieces given to the reader, but it took awhile to figure out how they all fit together. Some of it does follow usual YA/NA type storylines, but there is still some originality with it. The writing itself felt less organic than I was expecting compared to her other duology, but I think this will be worked out in the sequel. Now that a lot of the exposition is complete, I think the story itself will develop more smoothly and there will be a little less repetition. Overall, this novel is captivating as I enjoyed the characters and concept. As the first introduction to the world, it did a great job of keeping me interested and now I cannot wait to read the sequel.
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Orbit Books, for the opportunity to read this novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**
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