Adalyn Grace’s lush Gothic-tinged fantasy Belladonna was one part lush romance, one part murder mystery, and one part coming-of-age tale. A book that, when taken together, was much more than the sum of its pieces and its genre-mixing story was satisfying, captivating, and swoon-worthy by turns. So, coming up with a sequel for it was never going to be easy. How do you top a story in which a girl literally falls in love with Death?
By giving Death a brother, of course.
In truth, the arrival of Fate is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the big swings Grace takes in its sequel Foxglove, which expands the world of its predecessor in a variety of different ways. Belladonna introduced us all to Signa Farrow, a young woman seemingly cursed with the ability to see and talk to spirits, including Death himself. Despite its supernatural elements—and the heroine’s seeming immortality—her story was very much a traditional tale of a girl finding her voice and making a place for herself in the world. By falling in love with Death, in a way, Signa also learns to understand herself and accept the strange abilities she possesses.
In the second novel, Signa’s growth is apparent. She’s more sure of herself, and what she wants than ever before and she’s willing to make both hard decisions and real sacrifices in the name of those she loves. But Foxglove is a sequel that shakes things up in more ways than one. Signa’s cousin Blythe is officially added as a second POV character, giving us both a new perspective on the events of the previous novel and allowing us to see how the choices that were made in it continue to have painful emotional ramifications for many people. Blythe is a fierce, determined heroine in her own right, who also offers us an intriguing new way to see Signa’s place in the series’ larger story. (Let’s put it this way, I had not considered how weird it probably looks when Signa’s having conversations with Death—a figure no one else can see—in public!)
We’re also introduced to Fate, brother of Death and master of the tapestry that controls the events in everyone’s lives and the opposite of his brother in almost every way. He is capable of being seen by the living for one and existing in the real world when he chooses. He’s golden and warm where Death is shadowy and cold, and seems capable of essentially bending reality to his will whenever it’s convenient. The two had a falling out centuries earlier over a woman, and their estrangement is fueled by a strange mix of anger, jealousy, and loss. Things aren’t made any better when Fate takes an interest in Signa and wants her and her magical abilities for his own.
Signa, for her part, is determined to solve the murder that closed the first book—and put Blythe’s father, Elijah Hawthorne, in jail. She remains wracked with guilt over her role in Hawthorne son Percy’s death in Belladonna and desperately wants to make things up to the people she now considers her family, particularly to Blythe, who still misses her brother fiercely. This is complicated by the fact that Blythe begins to grow increasingly suspicious of Signa’s behavior and the obvious lies she’s been telling, all of which lead to an uncomfortable tension between the two women, even as they work together to prove Elijah’s innocence.
Unlike Belladonna, the murder mystery is actually the least interesting part of Foxglove, most likely because the book never makes any attempt to imply that Elijah might actually be guilty of the crime he’s accused of. Though various suspects are floated throughout the story, none of them—even the eventual guilty party!—have terribly compelling motivations, and its clear this particular “case” is merely the mechanism meant to repeatedly throw Signa into Fate’s orbit and require her to ask for his help, even against her own better judgment and Death’s constant pleas for her to avoid him.
Given the multiple voices and subplots that Foxglove must constantly juggle, Signa and Death’s romance takes something of a backseat in this sequel. Happily, however, their bond remains incredibly strong, and though the insertion of Fate into their dynamic causes more than a few problems for them both, Signa’s clear and obvious devotion to Death helps keep the dreaded second-book love triangle phenomenon at bay. There’s never a sense that Signa and Death’s relationship is truly threatened in any real way, though Fate is certainly not shy about often and repeatedly expressing interest in the woman who’s in love with his brother.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Fate’s interactions with Signa often carry a whiff of manipulation or gaslighting, but the character is much more enjoyable when he interacts with others. His quick-witted sparring with Blythe is particularly fun—I’m always a sucker for a “two people who ostensibly hate each other kind of flirting” dynamic—and the complicated history he shares with his brother adds a welcome tension to all their scenes together. (It’s something I honestly wouldn’t have minded spending more time on, so I hope their relationship is something that the next book in this series explores more fully.)
The ending of Foxglove is a genuinely satisfying one—with a couple of delicious twists that mean that the upcoming third series installment is undoubtedly going to be a wild ride. Wisteria will mark Grace’s first trilogy, so it will certainly be interesting to see what she does with these characters with a whole additional book’s worth of space to run with. I know i can’t wait to find out.
Foxglove is available now wherever books are sold.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB