Published by Orbit on March 7, 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy Romance
Source: Received from publisher
In this lush, romantic epic fantasy series from a New York Times bestselling author, 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.
The Foxglove King introduces a world of fallen gods, a corrupt monarchy and priesthood, and the death magic that connects them all.
Lore is a young woman with a secret. Born in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire, she possesses Mortem, a forbidden power over the dead. Once an unwilling member of a death cult, Lore has escaped and carved out a life for herself. Working as a member of a street gang, Lore uses her charm and her uncanny magic for low-level spying and drug running. It’s dirty and dangerous work, but needs must. Lore’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s her own – until the day she’s captured by the religious authorities.
The Presque Mort are warrior monks with special dispensation to wield Mortem in service of the one true god – and the throne. When they capture Lore, their leader tells her that she can either infiltrate the court and spy for them…or be executed. Collaborating with Gabriel, a former member of the court and a current Presque Mort operative, Lore’s mission is to get close to prince Bastian. Suspected of working for enemies of the Crown, Bastian is suspect number one when villages on the country’s border are wiped out overnight.
As Lore becomes increasingly embroiled in court intrigue, she finds that everyone has something to hide. But as someone with secrets herself, Lore soon comes to realize that she’ll need to trust her comrades if she’s to have any hope of preventing more deaths.
The Foxglove King is at its strongest when the focus is on our heroine and her growth. Lore’s start as a jaded, secretive, lonely person and her tentative journey to greater connection with and reliance on others was so satisfying. Once Lore, Gabriel, and Bastian start trusting each other, they develop an off-beat synergy that injects much-needed lightness into the story. But in Dellaire, nothing pure lasts for long. Soon, the trio comes to suspect that the highest powers in the land – the Presque Mort, and even the King himself – may be behind everything.
Hannah Whitten makes use of many tropes and quintessential fantasy components, including death magic, warring gods and goddesses, and even a love triangle. Certain character dynamics and plot twists reminded me of fantasy classics like Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Just don’t expect highly original work here. Even the setting draws on the familiar, as Dellaire and its political system are clearly inspired by the court of Versailles. Despite some derivative elements, readers looking for a fast-paced fantasy romance will find a lot to enjoy here. I certainly did!
The Foxglove King is a solid series opener for a new fantasy romance project. Recommended for fans of the genre or those looking to dip their toes into “courtly intrigue,” CW teen drama style.