Following her debut with the fantastic Wilderwood duology, Hannah Whitten is back with The Foxglove King, the first in a brand-new fantasy series that feels loosely inspired by the court of Louis XIV, but with just enough magic to keep things interesting.
The story follows Lore, who weilds the power of Mortem – or death – which isn’t unheard of, but hers manifests in a unique way. So unique, in fact, that when the scale of her power is realized, she is brought to the court of the Sainted King, and made to act as a necromancer to uncover the reasons behind mysterious deaths in outlying villages along the nation’s border.
As the mystery proves to be far bigger than Lore could have imagined, the world of politics, religion and courtly intrigue sweep her away into a life she’s never had to live, but to which she has to adapt quickly. Along for the ride are her guard, the Preque Mort monk-slash-duke Gabe, and Bastian, the Sun Prince, who has just the perfect amount of rakish, I-can-fix-him-or-possibly-make-him-worse energy.
Unlike Whitten’s two previous works, which jump headfirst into the central conflict and let the world build around it, The Foxglove King really takes its time building out Lore’s world, and the world of the Sainted King’s Citadel so that by the time the action picks up, the reader is just as immersed in things as Lore is. It admittedly takes a while for the central mystery to emerge through the haze of Lore’s panicked bid for survival, but none of that time ever feels like time wasted. I’d be hard-pressed to find some part of the story that isn’t served by the world-building in the first half.
The dynamic between Lore, Gabe and Bastian is wonderfully done. Too often, it can feel like a group presented as a trio don’t actually read that way, and it would have been all too easy to build both Gabe and Bastian’s relationships to Lore, while not including much of a dynamic between the two of them. But by giving them a history of their own, it strengthens their overall dynamic. If you’re a fan of enemies-to-lovers, let’s just say this trio offers those vibes in three different flavors. As the three of them move forward throughout the rest of the series, I cannot wait to see where the story will take them.
I can’t say too much about the plot specifically without giving things away, but suffice to say if you’re looking for a court-intrigue-packed fantasy with just enough romance to hook you along, then The Foxglove King scratches that itch.
The Foxglove King is out March 7, 2023. Special thank you to Orbit Books for an advance copy for review purposes.