We all know the type of story in which a young woman infiltrates the ranks of a royal family and makes the prince fall madly in love with her. “The Foxglove King,” by Hannah Whitten, isn’t that story. It’s true, Lore, the young woman, is tasked with getting close to the crowned prince, Bastian, but it’s the King who orders her to do so for reasons less mundane than wanting his son to settle down and prepare to be a proper ruler in his stead.
The first 13 years of her life, Lore lived beneath the city of Dellaire in the catacombs that entomb the fallen goddess of death, Nyxara. Thirteen years is a long time to be so close to a goddess whose body leaks Mortem, a dangerous magic that has the ability to extend life but if mishandled turns all it comes into contact with into stone. Lore’s freedom isn’t the only thing she stole from the catacombs the day she escaped; she also left with the power to control Mortem, to give death and just as swiftly take it away.
For 10 years Lore works as a poison runner, ferrying Mortem to those who can afford the high cost of the substance, hoping to slow the aging process. On one of her runs, Lore is caught and taken before the Sainted King where she expects a death sentence. But King August has a different plan in mind. Someone has been leaking information to the neighboring kingdom, resulting in several cities being razed and King August suspects it’s none other than his son, Bastian. Lore partners with Gabriel, an exiled duke-turned-monk, who will help her learn the customs of court life and eventually discover why Bastian has been attacking the outlying cities.
I feared this fantasy would turn into a classic love-triangle trope—would Lore go with the wronged but caring duke or the sassy, clever prince? However, while there is romance, it’s not what drives the plot. Instead, amidst the court intrigue and lush world building, readers follow along with Lore as she uncovers not only who the traitor is, but the real reason cities have been destroyed and just how deep the deception goes.
Fast paced with twists you don’t see coming, “The Foxglove King” is the first book in a dark fantasy trilogy of fallen gods, deception and a bit of necromancy.