The Foxglove King (The Nightshade Kingdom #1)

Source: DRC via NetGalley (Orbit Books, Orbit) in exchange for an honest review
Publication Date: March 7, 2023
Synopsis: Goodreads
Purchase Link: Amazon

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Why did I choose to read this book?

I actually requested this book on NetGalley before I realized that I had read books by Hannah Whitten already! For the Wolf (Wilderwood #1) and For the Throne (Wilderwood #2) were very good so I was happy to have another Whitten in my hands.

But also, I am really loving this theme of death and necromancy that seems to be taking hold of the fantasy genre lately. Skeletons, zombies, channeling the power of death – yes please and thank you. It’s fascinating.

What is this book about?

Lore is a criminal in a city that sits on top of a fallen god (the god of death). Mortem (the power of death) seeps out of the buried god, and through near death experiences some humans are able to channel that power. Lore is discovered to not only have the power to channel Mortem, but also the ability to remove death from someone/thing, bringing it back to life in gruesome fashion. She is discovered by the royalty, who force her to help them root out the cause for some murders along the border as well as a mole, who is suspected to be the crown prince.

It’s the classic street-rat-becomes-court-darling story with magical twists. I love to read about people, especially women, who are used to having a certain street sense and then discover that they are WAY out of their depths when it comes to court politics and spy skills. It’s also the kind of story that makes you suspicious of EVERYONE, which I enjoy. I like it when I can’t figure out the whodunnit so I can fully enjoy the twist/reveal.

What is notable about this story?

This plot is thick with prophecy and mythology, two things that usually take all the control out of the characters’ hands and take them on a thrill ride where they can only hold on for dear life. Whitten’s writing seems to set up this kind of viewpoint, where everything is out of the characters’ hands and maintaining the status quo is enough. But then something happens and suddenly everyone begins to utilize their own decision making, their own free will, taking control of their lives, prophecy and gods be damned. Just like her work in For the Wolf and For the Throne though, the characters will eventually have to learn that even though they have a choice, they still have to play by some of the rules because magic always has rules and a price. The transition from helplessness to power to uncertainty in this first novel in a series was beautifully done, and I am ready to pounce when book two hits NetGalley because I have to know what happens next.

Representation for LGBTQIA+ is abundant here and treated as a normal part of society. I am ALWAYS going to say that is notable because the more our stories reflect this, the better.

Was anything not so great?

Lore’s turning twenty-four at the eclipse, did you know?
It’s her 24th birthday, the day of the eclipse, the day of her Consecration, she’ll be 24 years old.
The entire second half of the book reminds you about this every 4 sentences and IT WAS IRRITATING. A small quibble to be sure, but still something to remark on.

I’m not a fan of love triangles. This one was well done, there was tension there, but I’m just not a fan of dudes fighting over a main character who is a woman. It’s kind of gross. It reminded me a lot of the prince/soldier/Aelin triangle that plays out across the first three books of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. If you’re going to spend 3 entire books making me invest in a certain pairing, don’t pull a switcharoo on me 4 books in. I am nervous that this will happen here, I am kind of invested in Gabriel+Lore sooooo…yeah. Again, a small quibble, especially at the end of book one, but I’m just warning you that things are in flux and I don’t like it.

What’s the verdict?

4 stars on Goodreads and I am ready to find out what comes next. If you are a fan of fantasy epics with clearly defined magic systems this series will definitely be for you. This also continues the necromancy theme that has been strong in fantasy the past few years, so if you like zombies, raised dead, animated dead, skeletons, etc then oh boy this book should get on your TBR right away. Highly recommend!