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Hannah Whitten’s “The Foxglove King” — an immersive and captivating fantasy novel full of death magic and powerful dead gods — will keep readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. Fraught with angsty tension, razor-sharp wit, mind-blowing plot twists, and a love triangle that develops into a forbidden slow-burn romance, the first novel of Whitten’s “The Nightshade Crown” trilogy hits all the right notes.
The novel’s protagonist, 23-year-old Lore, is wonderfully sarcastic and powerful — yet her mindset and reactions are still relatable. Lore is forced to hide her Mortem abilities, or death magic, by being a poison runner and spy. But she soon finds herself in trouble as her magic is exposed and she is forced to do the bidding of the king and his powerful religious force. Despite her story, which is filled with tragedy, pain, and betrayal, her wit keeps the reader laughing. Lore’s entertaining internal dialogue keeps the story lighthearted even in its darkest moments.
The romance in “The Foxglove King” is more than just a simple love story — it’s a complicated affair that adds a layer of tension to the plot. Lore finds herself caught in a love triangle, or perhaps even a love square, that will make readers eagerly await its resolution. The forbidden nature of the romance adds another layer of complexity to the story, making it all the more compelling.
Whitten’s worldbuilding in “The Foxglove King” is truly immersive and enchanting. The city of Dellaire is vividly depicted, with its sprawling streets and labyrinth of catacombs. The author takes the time to describe the culture and customs of the city's inhabitants, from the elites’ elaborate clothing to the gritty underworld of the poison runners. Laying out the foundations of a world can sometimes be boring and hard to stay interested in; however, the construction of Whitten’s world is truly engaging, with the addition of incredibly active scenes that keep readers’ hearts pounding. Whitten’s attention to detail in crafting her world makes it feel fully realized and tangible, transporting readers straight into the heart of the story.
In addition to its romantic subplots and magic, “The Foxglove King” also provides excellent social commentary relevant to today’s world. The story’s setting, Dellaire, is a city filled with a small group of elites and a large group of common peasants. The elites throw pompous, over-the-top parties and hoard their wealth, paying a smaller amount in taxes than the commoners who can barely eat. Even more outrageously, they also use their wealth to guarantee themselves good spots in the afterlife, while the poor are condemned to eternal suffering due to the outrageous costs of a proper burial. The inequalities present in Whitten’s fictional city clearly present a biting criticism of real-world elites, adding another realistic layer to the story.
Finally, one caution for readers: Read Whitten’s provided content warnings before picking up “The Foxglove King.” This story is full of dark themes and gory details, all of which are spelled out in Whitten’s list.
With its captivating worldbuilding, compelling characters, and unexpected twists, “The Foxglove King” is a must-read for fantasy fans. Lore’s sarcastic wit and powerful magic make her a joy to read about, the romantic subplots add a layer of tension to the story, and the social commentary is both timely and thought-provoking. Overall, “The Foxglove King” is a thrilling and unforgettable read that will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the final page.
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