Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing a book that’s received quite a bit of buzz recently, The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten. It seems like most of my online reading friends have either read this one or are currently starting it. This book will be published on March 7, which I guess explains the activity as everyone scrambles to finish up their ARCs on time. lol.
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.
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.
***Thank you to Orbit Books for providing an advanced copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
It took me a minute to sink into this one, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The beginning was a bit rocky because I had no idea what was going on or what so many aspects of the world meant. The author didn’t really make entering this setting a seamless experience, but I did have some fun trying to figure it all out. Once I got my bearings, I fell in love with almost everything about the book and enjoyed all the twists and turns along the way.
While the book started off a bit slow, the pace always felt steady, as if the narrative was constantly building toward something dark, inevitable, and important. The writing was good. I especially loved how the author described the settings and the use of magic. It was immersive, and the magic felt unique. The author did have a few crutches, though, such as the prince seemingly winking at everyone. Despite being described in ways that felt realistic, the setting was fairly basic and didn’t feel very different from any other fantasy court. I didn’t mind because I enjoy books about court intrigue and drama, and this book did a good job with it. There just wasn’t much that felt fresh about the world-building other than the magic, which was an interesting take on the opposing yet intertwined forces of life and death.
I loved all three of the main characters. Lore was mysterious, and I enjoyed watching her come into her power while figuring out how to navigate the court and all the competing interests jockeying to use her for their own ends. Although, I swear to god she is the worst spy ever. lol. Gabriel had a compelling history, and I found his struggle to keep his faith relatable. His pious attitude and inability to see what was right in front of his face did get on my nerves at times, but I also respected him for sticking to his convictions. Finally, there was Bastian. He was the flighty, flirtatious bi disaster prince, at least on the surface. I just had a lot of fun reading his character and enjoyed peeling back the layers as I got to know him better. He had a lot of great banter, and his snark kept me entertained.
While I liked the three main characters individually, my feelings about their relationship dynamics are a bit more complex. This was sort of a love triangle. However, I didn’t feel like there was a ton of romance. The little bit there was insta and blamed on a fated connection, which I found annoying because it was used in lieu of any real relationship development between the three. By the end of the book, I still had the sense that the three of them barely knew or trusted each other. The basis of their relationships was largely forced proximity and being hot. lol. I did like the dynamic between Bastian and Gabriel, though, and the history they shared as children. Bastian and Lore also had some really great moments in the alley and crypt where things felt intimate but not necessarily sexual. Given how the book ended I’m very curious to see where the relationship between these three goes in future books. I doubt it will happen, but I’d be down for a power throuple, as long as there is actually some building of intimacy between them.
I also have mixed feelings on the themes. I liked reading about all the ones touched on in the book, but they all felt a bit shallow. The class struggles were mentioned only in passing, and the issues with organized religion could have been explored much more deeply. That being said, I still had a lot of fun reading this story, and I loved the light vs. dark vibes and how the author attempted to upend how that usually goes to some extent. Selflessness and the greater good were also explored, and while I wish there had been a bit more time devoted to this, I liked what the author did with it and hope to see it expanded in the future books, especially in relation to Lore’s character.
Overall, this was a fun read. If you like fantasy books with plenty of court intrigue, religious themes, and death magic with a healthy dose of subterfuge and betrayal, this one might be for you. I definitely recommend it! Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.
8 thoughts on “ARC Review – The Foxglove King”
I agree that I liked how the characters were written individually, but just didn’t vibe with the relationships. Like I totally get where Gabe is coming from as written, but at the same time hated the constant sniping. But overall really liked the concept for this book!
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Yeah. I liked Bastian and Lore’s relationship more than Gabe and Lore. I’m hoping with the way it ended we’ll see the relationship between B & L grow more in the second book. I also really liked the concept. It combined a bunch of things I like and had fascinating magic and history.
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So I would LOVE if we actually got a throuple, but we probably won’t. Never do, really LOL but if I had to pick one of the people for Lore to end up with, I think I’d definitely want her to go with Bastian. Gabe needs to sort himself out first. Great review!!!
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Yeah. I agree. I doubt the throuple will happen, but I’d love to see it. I also think I’d prefer her with Bastian. I enjoyed the moments they shared. Gabe just felt super closed off, which is totally understandable given his character arc. I just didn’t really like the two of them together that much.
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I finally finished this a couple of days ago and just wrote my review and now I’m circling back to yours! I definitely agree it took me a few hot seconds to get my bearings in Lore’s world. But it clicked into place once she regularly interacted with the Presque Mort, etc. I really loved the themes of this book–I know you thought they felt a little shallow, but I don’t know…there was something about how Whitten wrote it that I think can resonate with most readers. As for the romance…yea, I definitely wish there had been more of it. I hope we get more in the next book and agree that a throuple would be hella cool, especially given their fated connection to each other (I have my theory about Gabe).
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