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.
“This is what I saw, in the reflections of the tomb.” She whispered it almost to herself, broken-voiced. “It’s what the goddess dreamed, but I thought I could prevent it. I thought you would choose the world over yourself.”
“I’m far too selfish for that,” Lore whispered.”
The Foxglove King was one of my most anticipated reads this year and I was quite pleased with it. From the very beginning, we are drenched in atmosphere and this gorgeous, darkly captivating world. From the cover, to the opening passage and all the way to the end of the book. This book is an immersive experience and was made even more complete due to the fact that I was able to completely submerge myself in the world by reading my advanced copy and then switching on the gorgeously narrated audiobook.
Hannah Whitten is not going to be an author for everyone, but she sure is an auto-buy author for me. I love the way she writes and the energy she brings to her novels. I love that she’s not afraid of writing romantic fantasy catering to adults. She writes these cataclysmic, ethereal, moody books that somehow stay light at the same time. The magic system she has built here was so thoughtful but not unbelievable. Our characters, Lore and Bastian are two counterparts of darkness and light, while Gabriel is there to protect the sanctity of what he has been raised to believe. Oh yes, folks, there’s a love triangle brewing. I know some people hate love triangles, but I’ve never been afraid of a little competition when it comes to love. So if they’re done well enough, I quite enjoy them, and Whitten writes romance in a way that my heart grabs onto greedily.
“The air around him almost seemed to glimmer, gold dust in the dark. Moonlight made him more beautiful, yes, but in the same way that darkness emphasized a flame. He didn’t belong in it; Bastian Arceneaux was antithetical to night.”
And I’m going to put it out there now, I am Team Bastian. I like Gabriel (sometimes), but Bastian captures my attention from the second he walks onto our page, whereas I had to grow to like Gabriel. I don’t know if I’m going to win this one, but I’ll have fun along with way.
Whitten doesn’t shy away from tackling heavy themes in this novel such as elitism or religious fervor and the many hypocrisies that can arise from it. There’s examples we see in our everyday life that are transplanted to the page; medical treatment availability and how laws apply differently across the classes, the way religion can often be used in the name of doing something for the greater good, but causes harm to vast groups of people. All this and more still. Yet, she can keep the humor going throughout the novel. She is talented at balancing the heavier themes. The characters provide us with fun banter and keep things interesting as we read.
“More than one unmarried pregnant person thought hiding in the catacombs was preferable to dealing with their families on the surface.” “Doesn’t say much for their families.” “Or society in general. It takes more than one person to make a baby, but the onus always falls on the one who bodily carries the proof.”
This book is full of court intrigue, there’s a dash or twelve of cult-like activity, murderous family, found family, and so much sexual tension. When it ended, I was already wishing I had the second book in my hands. I love these characters and can’t wait to see what happens next.
Audiobook narrator Emily Ellet was the perfect Lore. She captured her confidence, bravery, and playfulness quite beautifully. She switched easily to male voices without making them sound like caricatures. The entire production suits the novel.
Thanks to Orbit and Hachette Audio for the review copies!