Sunday, February 5, 2023

Review: THE FOXGLOVE KING by Hannah Whitten


Rating: 1.5/5 stars

DNF at 50%. 

The Foxglove King is an epic fantasy that reminded me a bit of Vespertine. It features death magic, poisons, catacombs, and a religious setting. 

This is my second Hannah Whitten book, and both For the Wolf and The Foxglove King are 95% vibes, 5% fitting a plot into the vibes. Hannah even said in an interview for For the Wolf that when she was writing the book, she was going for vibes above everything else. And you can totally feel that in both of her books that I’ve read. That must just be her writing style, which is fine, but it’s not my preferred reading style. This is why I feel like something is missing in this book, but it’s also hard to pinpoint what that might be. 

The death magic is not super well explained in The Foxglove King. Lore can channel mortem, which is the essence of death (I think?), which allows her to raise the dead for a small time. This, of course, is illegal, so when she gets caught at the beginning of the book, the king and priest offer her an ultimatum: help them figure out who is slaughtering villages by raising some of the dead villagers to question them, or she will be sentenced to death. So of course Lore agrees to keep her life and help them. 

In the meantime, Lore gets to roam the palace, and she is also given the task of spying on Bastian, the king’s heir who may or may not be a traitor to the crown. And you can already tell, without having read a word of the book, that a romance will form between Bastian and Lore. Not much had happened at the point that I quit reading, but it was very clear from the context that is the direction the story was moving in. 

This book contains lots of discussions about church and court politics without actually setting a good stage for the distinctions between the church and the court and how they operate together or separately. I honestly didn’t love the religious setting here, and I usually tend to enjoy reading about religion in fantasy novels. The importance of the foxglove, belladonna, and other poisons was also not super well explained, and I still can’t tell you why the title of the book is what it is. 

I had the same feeling during this book that I had while reading Whitten’s debut: I kept looking at all the pages I’d read and think, what even happened in all those pages? And then I’d look at all the pages I had left to read and think, what is even going to happen in all those pages? This book is very slow-paced and meandering in its story, which, unfortunately, made it pretty boring for me. I almost DNFed the book twice, at I finally did quit reading it after the third time I contemplated whether I should continue or not. There are far too many books I’d rather be reading than one that bores me so much that I’d rather do anything else than pick it up again. 

I think maybe Hannah Whitten’s writing style just isn’t for me. I like the ideas behind her books, but so far I haven’t really cared for her books themselves. In The Foxglove King, the characters don’t have much development or distinction from one another; the magic system is flimsy at best and largely undeveloped; the setting is not fleshed out beyond “church” and “palace” and “catacombs”; and the plot is very slow-moving while also being extremely obvious what will happen. The combination of all those factors created a book that I just couldn’t push myself to finish, sadly. I think this book will be a big hit for the right audience, but that audience doesn’t include me. I’d be willing to give Whitten one more try again in the future, but I honestly don’t know if I’ll have any better luck with her next series. 

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