Book Review: The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Nightshade Crown

Publisher: Orbit (March 7, 20231)

Length: 466 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I’ll admit, I wasn’t completely sold on Hannah Whitten’s debut For the Wolf, but fast forward to now and I’m all in for The Foxglove King. The first in The Nightshade Crown series, it tells the tale of a young woman named Lore who possesses the secret power to raise the dead. Born in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire, she escaped when she was just thirteen. Now a decade older, she has learned quite a few survival lessons in the years spent eking out a living as a poison runner, using her death magic called Mortem. Unfortunately though, even the best laid plans can sometimes go up in flames. When she’s captured and her powers become discovered, Lore expects to be executed, but is instead enlisted by the monarch King August to perform a dangerous task.

Together with one of the Presque Mort, an order of warrior-monks who has the king’s approval to use Mortem, Lore is to infiltrate the royal court and find out why entire villages on the countryside seem to be dying overnight. While Gabriel has been in the order for many years, he was a duke’s son before his family fell from grace, making him the perfect partner with his past ties to the court. Posing as cousins, Lore and Gabriel set out to spy on the nobles and find out who is responsible for all the deaths. As it so happens, on the king’s list of suspects is his own son Bastian, the philandering Sun Prince. Clearly, there’s more to the heir than meets the eye, as the careless wastrel persona appears to be just an act. But even if it turns out the prince is innocent of treason, there are still plenty of secrets and hidden traps he’s keeping below the surface.

At first, I wasn’t sure The Foxglove King would be for me. Alarm bells were going off in my head as I read the synopsis and some of the more tropey elements were making me nervous. While I loved the idea of the Versailles-inspired court, I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where the execution of this type of setting has fallen flat on its face. Then there’s the derivative magic system based on death. I know it’s a popular cliché for a reason, but honestly, I’ve seen only a few authors who have manage to do it well. And finally, there’s the vague hint of the dreaded love triangle. If there’s one trope I’m glad the YA/New Adult fantasy genre has started to move away from in recent years, it’s that one, so yes, it jarred me a little to see it pop up here.

In the end, just as I’d anticipated, all these elements ended up being in the book, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Hannah Whitten has undeniably grown as an author, improving her storytelling skills and especially her dialogue writing. Sure, the anachronisms might have been distracting on occasion, but I still much prefer this slick casual style of banter to clunky and overwrought purple prose. It kept the pace smooth and fast, and the hundreds of pages just flew on by. Plotting was tight, and we didn’t hit as many snags compared to what I remember from For the Wolf, where the writing was borderline flowery and we frittered away too much time on the romancey bits.

In terms of characters, I also found Lore to be a lot more interesting and likeable as a protagonist. She seemed more genuine somehow, possibly due to the more natural dialogue. And while there’s romance involved and some mild love-triangle action in play, it is on the subtle side and I’ve always said I don’t mind as long as the characters are well developed. Lore is just the right balance of enigmatic and amiable, and her motivations are believable given her backstory. Her relationship with Gabe is complicated but stops just shy of being overly dramatic. And I really liked the mercurial Bastian, who can turn on the charm and be a lovable goof one minute and transform into a calculating and menacing presence the next.

It all made for a very entertaining read. The ending was also quite intense, but leaves plenty to look forward to in the next book. In the end, I enjoyed The Foxglove King a lot more than I thought! Looking forward to the next one with excitement.

14 Comments on “Book Review: The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten”

  1. Your final definition for this as an entertaining read with an intense finale made me pay attention: I might even be inclined to overlook the love triangle, since it seems to be mostly relegated to the sidelines… 😉
    Thanks for sharing!


  2. Ooh nice! I found I did struggle a bit with For the Wolf as well. Might have been that purple prose but I liked it well enough! Excited to read this one as it seems like it might have a darker edge! Glad to see you enjoyed it! Nice review!


  3. I’m glad this worked better for you. I wasn’t crazy about For the Wolf either, so I passed on this. Maybe I’ll catch up when the sequel comes out!


  4. Thank you for an excellent, informative book review. Because that gorgeous cover caught my eye, I saw the reference to the Versailles court – I’m a sucker for court intrigue stories – and I nearly, nearly requested it BUT some of the other aspects you mentioned were also in there, particularly the dreaded triangle and so I passed. If I can fit it in, I’ll look out for the next in the series, and get hold of this one, too!


  5. Well you could be my twin with that book Mogsy! I wasn’t sold on For the Wolf either and I dreaded the love triangle but in the end I was so pleasantly surprised!


  6. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 04/16/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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