“Monstrousness is a curious thing. In it’s barest form, its simplest definition, a monster is merely something different than you think it should be. And who gets to decide what should be, anyway?”
What is For The Throne About?
Red and the Wolf have finally contained the threat of the Old Kings but at a steep cost. Red’s beloved sister Neve, the First Daughter is lost in the Shadowlands, an inverted kingdom where the vicious gods of legend have been trapped for centuries and the Old Kings have slowly been gaining control. But Neve has an ally–though it’s one she’d rather never have to speak to again–the rogue king Solmir.
Solmir wants to bring an end to the Shadowlands and he believes helping Neve may be the key to its destruction. But to do that, they will both have to journey across a dangerous landscape in order to find a mysterious Heart Tree, and finally to claim the gods’ dark, twisted powers for themselves
Hello again dear reader or listener, I come bearing praise for a phenomenal sequel!
A year ago – almost to the day, as I reviewed For the Wolf on the 23rd of June hah – I caught whiff of a new author bringing together all the good fantasy tropes found in a Gothic romance, with fairy tale undertones, plant magic, abandoned keeps, sentient forests, and grumpy and tired male leads. Needles to say I didn’t walk, I ran to it, and while I found it an incredible debut with all the promise in the world, I still had a few small hang-ups that I felt confident the author would work past in her sequel.
Now, I get the chance to pull an Alfred and say ‘I told you so, Master Wayne’ (Michael Caine voice for dramatic purposes).
Hannah Whitten, you brilliant being, you delivered on everything you promised and more! I bow to you deeply.
For The Throne really is everything you wish for in a sequel/series conclusion, in that it wraps up all the threads in a satisfying manner that isn’t necessarily what you’d expect, it honors already established characters while also giving the right amount of space to the ones who are now the main focus and, it does all that by improving on all that worked well before to make it even better. Gone is the slight heavy handedness of lyricism and metaphors that impaired the pacing of book one a touch, but the atmosphere and ambiance is still as powerful as ever. Whitten’s prose is evocative and mystifying, but it is also more streamlined and more optimally paced to fit the action on the page. (Something she’d already begun doing in the second half of the first book to be fair). Moreover, the author picks up the plot soon after the end of book one and she does so in a manner that is easy to follow even if it’s been a while since you last read For The Wolf.
Structure wise, For The Throne, presents us with multiple pov characters so they’re all more relevant to the story as opposed to book one’s use of interludes to show how they lived at the metaphorical margins of Red and Eammon’s story. As I said already, this worked really well in that it kept Neve and Solmir at the center as the now more relevant duo, but it didn’t sideline Red and Eammon either. Also, getting to read about established couples past the will they-won’t they stage always gives me the fuzzies and it offers the reader some solid ground to stand on while the rest of the plot unfolds and sweeps us away. Having the contrasting settings of the Wilderwood/ the real world, regularly alternate with the grayscale Shadowlands and their uncanny vibe, made it all the more impactful moreover.
As for her character work, Mrs. Whitten understood the assignment. Aside from the fact that this is an enemies to lovers tropes done amazingly, Neve and Solmir have a wildly different dynamic between them than what Red and Eammon have, and I personally thrived on this dichotomy. The first duo has sharp edges that don’t need to be smoothed over but accepted as they are. The result of misguided mistakes and betrayals that are not excused but understood and are now fighting to fix things. They are muted and colder colors but no less impressive and deep. Whereas the latter duo were the softness that comes after pain that is healing with care. The shedding of preconceived notions and the correcting of wrongful history. They are the warm and bright colors of autumn. Just like the ongoing layered metaphor that Whitten sets for them, Neve and Solmir are winter, and Red and Eammon are autumn.
Add to this, misunderstood villain, and villain decay, and aaah this book just gifted me with all of my favorite tropes. Perhaps the main reason I loved the way Whitten wrote these tropes though is more based on the fact that her characters do not try to redeem themselves in the eyes of others or seek to erase their past actions with some grand gesture in search of forgiveness. It’s more a case of, ‘I did terrible things in the attempt of stopping something worse and now I’ll do my part to make it right regardless of what that does to how others view me’. Certainly makes way for an interesting discussion on the ends justifying the means and what makes goodness, among another grocery list of big themes and topics, but I digress.
Lastly, and because I can’t speak of all that I loved without big spoilers, I’ll mention two things I particularly enjoyed. First, Whitten continues with a seamless integration of LGBTQ+ representation that she started with book one, mainly to do with Aro/Ace and Bisexual characters. And second, for the true shining moment of this sequel, Whitten improved on something she began with book one but well and truly developed and showcased with book two and that is, the men are the emotional messes that are unable to actually solve things or act impressively, while the women are the levelheaded problem solvers because they’re struggling yes, but there’s no point whining about this, let’s get it over with. Don’t get me wrong, every character in this series is a badass in their own way. But the feminism/equality continues to be chef’s kiss. Let the men be wrecks who are trying their best but get overwhelmed and let the women step on the damsel in distress trope to leave barely dust behind. Such human, much wow.
So then, as always with books I’ve deeply enjoyed, these words barely feel like enough justice being made but it’ll have to do for now and I hope that you’ll trust me dear reader or listener when I encourage you to do as I did when it comes to this series.
Don’t walk towards it, run!
It is a truly magical, modern in all the right ways, and satisfying to the core piece of fantasy, and I cannot wait to read more of Whitten’s books in the future.
Until next time,
Eleni A. E.