(3.5 rounded up to a 4)
The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten is a fantasy romance featuring religion and court politics and the first installment in The Nightshade Crown series.
Lore escaped a cult hiding in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire when she was thirteen. Now twenty-three, she works as a spy for a poison-runner as her death magic (Mortem) ties her to the city. When one of her jobs goes wrong she is taken prisoner by the only people sanctioned to use Mortem–a group of warrior-monks. Expecting to be killed for her magic, she is instead conscripted by the king to find out the mystery behind random entire cities dying overnight.
This book is tagged as YA, but it’s more New Adult. The first 30% is mostly vibes and some info dumps, and though the worldbuilding isn’t very deep it seemed cool so I was interested. And then I accidentally stayed up until 5 am reading the last 70% of the book.
There’s casual queerness here that I quite liked. Our main character was raised by a lesbian couple, many characters appear to be sexually fluid, and one of the gods in the pantheon is nonbinary and is referenced with they/them pronouns.
I particularly enjoyed the magic system here that seems to be the duality between Mortem, death magic, and Spiritum, life magic.
The descriptions we got about the pantheon of gods was interesting as well. I grew up Lutheran, but I’ve heard some complaints from folks who are Catholic noting that Whitten’s religion here is very stereotypical.
The love triangle didn’t fully land for me, and there feels like a bit of a “fated mates” scenario happening here which is always weird to me unless I’m reading about shifters.
There is a scene with animal death, and though that is one of my biggest triggers, I understand why it was written into the story and it wasn’t ham-fisted or done for no reason.
All in all, I do plan to read the next book in the series.
CW: gore, violence, cults, death of a child (off-page, the body is on-page), parental abuse (emotional, physical), religious abuse, animal death, brief mentions of vomit
I received a copy of this book to review. All opinions contained herein are my own.
If you want to see more from me, check out my bookstagram!