The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten – ARC Review!

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.

Having been a fan of Whitten’s previous duology, I went into this with pretty high expectations. Expectations it completely exceeded. Lore spends her days as a poison runner for one of the many gangs in Dellaire, but when a job goes wrong, and her power as a Mortem wielder are exposed, Lore finds herself thrust into the path of the Presque-Mort, an elite group of warrior monks and, through them, the Sainted King. King August has a job that Lore is specifically suited for, one that will use both her skill as a spy as well as her skill with Mortem. Lore quickly finds herself swept up in the glittering court, and caught between two members, Gabriel Renault, the Presque-Mort assigned to watch her and Prince Bastien himself. So when Lore’s past starts catching up with her, she will have to decide who to put her trust in, because there are bigger things at work here than a King hoping for war, and Lore has found herself slap bang in the middle of them.

If you’ve read Whitten’s previous works you will know that one things she writes incredibly well are her characters. The Foxglove King is told entirely from Lore’s POV and she is a character I bonded with almost instantly. She is someone who hasn’t exactly lead a gilded life, after escaping from the cult she was born to in the catacombs, she finds herself working for Poison Runners, always on the wrong side of the law. She is feisty, knows her own strengths and weaknesses and is prone to swearing more than a lady should, something she has to temper down once she arrives in court. She really comes into herself in this book, she isn’t a good person, entirely too selfish and she knows it, but she does care deeply for those she loves and would go to any depths to protect them.

Our two other main characters are Gabriel & Bastien and with them, Whitten treats us to more, brilliantly written, tortured men who you can’t help but want to absolve of their sins. They have both had things happen to them they would rather forget, rather have not happened. One growing up with a distant father who would more likely kill him than help him, and the other branded a traitor due to the actions of his father when he was a child. These two have more in common than they would think, but that doesn’t mean they work well together, past grievances keep them from being the friends they were as children, made all the worse when we throw their feelings for Lore into the equation.

Set in the court of Dellaire Whitten treats us to a wealth of politics, scheming and religion. There are multiple players and we’re always kept on our toes, never sure who to trust. Whitten does a brilliant job of bringing the danger of religious zealotry into the light, of showing how blind loyalty and worship can bring about the downfall of countries. The people of Dellaire worship Apollius one of the old God’s who was the light to Nyxara’s darkness. Lore’s powers come from Nyxara, allowing her to wield Mortem, the magic born from death, like no other. She also shows us the hypocrisy of the wealthy, and uses the Mortem to show this. For those outside of the walls of the Court, Mortem use is illegal, leading to a sentence in prison, if not worse. But for those inside the gilded walls, it is seen as something illicit, something fun, something to hopefully gift you a few extra years of life with little to no consequence.

Lore has spent her whole life shying away from her power, believing it to be a curse, but her time working for the King finds her experimenting with it more and more, learning the boundaries of it, as well as the strengths. It’s a magic system that took me a little while to get my head around, but Whitten does a fantastic job of bringing it to life, ensuring you can visualise the scenes when it’s in use almost like you’re watching a movie. Her writing style keeps the lush prose from her previous stories, weaving in plenty of darkness and twists to keep us on our toes & her descriptions bring her characters and the world they inhabit to life.

Now, there is a love triangle, but I knew this going in so I’m not sure if that’s why I didn’t mind it as much. Lore only has eyes for one of our love interests for the majority of the book and, while we do have some of the typical male bravado scenes that are the reason I dislike love triangles, I didn’t feel like there was an obvious winner. I obviously have my favourite who I would want her to get with in the end, but I felt like the story could go either way and I wouldn’t be overly fussed. The romance itself was filled with steam, innuendo’s and incredibly slow burn, but it also had a sweetness to it. These three people, all of whom have tortured pasts, just looking for somewhere to belong, someone to belong too, it heightened the tension, as well as the inevitable betrayal and I adored every second. Also, apparently between this and Fleabag, I’ve discovered a new Kink… and that is seeing the pious, religious man questioning his vows and testing them… no judgement please.

Safe to say I loved this one. Every new book I read by Whitten just makes me love her and her writing more, and I am desperate to get my hands on the next book.

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