Adalyn Grace’s Foxglove – the sequel to last year’s decadently dark Belladonna – is a novel that was at the top of many romantasy readers’ most anticipated books for late summer. But whilst the first novel in Grace’s trilogy was infused with an autumnal atmosphere, this second book has a more summery spirit as protagonist Signa Farrow is forced to confront her past and return to where her entanglement with Death began. Yet the true delight of this novel isn’t reuniting with Signa and Death (though of course that’s a joy in itself) but in the added perspective of Signa’s cousin Blythe Hawthorne, who danced with death and defied fate in Belladonna, only to face both yet again – though this time it’s in a much more literal way.
Having discovered her power as a reaper and fallen in love with Death, Signa Farrow’s strange life was finally starting to make sense. But with a duke dead and Signa’s uncle Elijah arrested for murder within the opening chapters of Foxglove, life at Thorn Grove is thrown into chaos once more. And as far as Signa and Death are concerned, there’s one person to blame: Death’s temperamental brother, Fate. Convinced that Signa is the love of his life and not his brother’s (for reasons too spoilery to include here), Fate saunters into society with the sole intention of making Signa his wife. His hate for his brother is a palpable thing but he underestimates Signa’s own power, as well as the shrewdness and resilience of Blythe, who instantly takes umbrage to the new ‘Prince’ on the scene.
If Signa thought she’d gotten a handle on her powers in Belladonna, Foxglove proves that she’s still got much to learn. Fate is determined to help her tap into a different side of her power, one that would take her away from Death. But as the brothers battle it out, Blythe and Signa are more concerned with saving Elijah from the gallows, even if it means sacrificing their own future happiness in the process. With the duke’s real murderer still at large and the good Hawthorne name in tatters, Signa and Blythe are pushed down increasingly desperate and divergent paths. To make matters worse, Blythe’s uncle Byron has begun investigating her brother Percy’s mysterious disappearance, and the closer Blythe gets to the truth, the more it threatens her sisterly bond with Signa. But Percy’s fate isn’t the only secret with the power to shake the very foundations of Blythe’s sheltered existence.
You may have reign over the dead and dying, but let’s not forget that it’s my hand that controls the fates of the living. For as long as she breathes, this one is mine.”
With expectations high, sequels are difficult to get right. Thankfully, Foxglove is as addictively readable and evocatively written as Belladonna, maintaining the gothic mystery feel of the first book but adding extra layers that delve into Death’s complicated history with his brother, as well as Signa’s traumatic past. The historical Bridgerton-esque society forms an entertaining backbone for the story, as Signa and Blythe attend picturesque garden parties, waltz around dazzling ballrooms and play croquet, all the while aiming suspicious glances at each other and becoming further ensnared in the centuries-long feud between Death and Fate. It could almost be a spin-off of everyone’s favourite Regency-romance, only with added murder, supernatural happenings and ghosts lurking in the background.
Belladonna was unmistakeably Signa’s story but Blythe was always a fan favourite, even though she spent most of the novel confined to her bed, constantly knocking on death’s door. The dual POV between both characters gives this book a different vibe, with half the story circling Signa’s continuing relationship with Death and her new conflict with Fate, and the other half of the story following Blythe as she tries to protect what little family she has left – including her cousin. With histories and relationships firmly established, Fate’s introduction is an inconvenience to say the least – but what an intriguing inconvenience he is. At once effortlessly charismatic and haunted, Fate feels a little like a wounded animal – desperate for affection and ready to lash out if someone injures his pride, which Signa and Blythe do with regularity.
If you’re hoping for some love triangle drama here, as I was, Foxglove doesn’t really deliver it. There’s a complicated triangle of sorts between Signa, Death and Fate, with Blythe hovering at the periphery due to her belief that Fate – or Prince Aris as she knows him – is the key to saving her family. But the weight of Fate’s desperation lingers heavily across every page and Signa is never genuinely tempted by his advances. Most of the time it feels as if she’s merely going through the motions of humouring him in an attempt to create some tension as the mystery of the duke’s murder unravels. Whilst Fate’s inclusion in the story is a breath of fresh air after the darker atmosphere of Belladonna, it does come at the expense of Death, who spends much of Foxglove in his shadow form, communicating with Signa telepathically and rarely able to be physically present in a room with her. When they are together, their scenes are tender and emotionally charged. But those moments are too few and far between.
Whilst the above might seem like a criticism, it’s actually a good problem for a book to have. Grace made readers fall in love with Death in Belladonna, so it’s only natural that we’d miss him when he’s only present in spirit, as he frequently is here. But Death taking a slight backseat lets Signa venture back to where it all began for her – to the ancestral home where her parents met their untimely end. It also allows for a much more fractious relationship to unfold between Blythe and Fate – two characters who end the book as enemies but are sure to rile each other up in all the best ways when the third book, Wisteria, rolls around next year. With the delicious promise of more mystery, more death, more romance, more unwise deals with fate, and more Signa and Blythe teaming up to bring the world to rights, the final book in the series is one that deserves an early pre-order.
Foxglove was published by Hodderscape on 22 August 2023