By: Hannah Whitten
Genre: Epic/Dark Fantasy (for adults)
Publisher: Orbit Books
WARNING: There will be spoilers for For the Wolf
The First Daughter is for the Throne
The Second Daughter is for the Wolf
And the Wolves are for the Wilderwood.”
Hannah Whitten, For the Wolf
For the Throne is Hannah Whitten’s follow-up to her brilliant debut fantasy, For the Wolf. This second installment is just as incredible, beautiful and unique. For the Throne picks up right after the events of For the Wolf. It is a littler darker, but still as much of a page turner as For the Wolf. Much of For the Throne concentrates on Neve, who is now Queen of Valleyda since the death of their mother. However, the story is told from multiple POVs. What we know is that both Eammon and Red have taken the Wilderwood into them, it lives inside them both, they are something in between human and the wood, as it runs in their blood. Lyra no longer has to stay and longs to travel where she never could, and we know Fife made a bargain to save her life. What his bargain was and what he can do, he does not reveal. Neve, who was deceived by Miri, the fanatical priestess bent on destroying the Wilderwood to set the Kings free, had been taking in shadows from the Shadoworld. She had been duped into believing that it was the only way to free Red, and she took in shadow in much the way Red took in the forest. Where Red’s veins ran green, Neve’s became laced with blackness. Their connection both as twins, the unconditional love they share, and the paths they chose, made them interconnected in a very special way. Red is the light to Neve’s dark, sisters, but opposite, mirror images of each other. There is no Neve without Red, no Red without Neve. At the end of For the Wolf, we know that Neve willingly took in more shadows and disappeared into the Shadoworld. The twist is now its Red who must find a way to free her sister without letting the Kings free, who will destroy their world. The dichotomy of the two books is brilliant. In For the Wolf, it is Red in the forest, becoming the forest, surrounded by nature, beauty, light, and her husband, Eammon, The Wolf. In For the Throne, it is Neve trapped in the desolation of the Shadoworld, accompanied only by the former King, Solmir, who she must work with if she is to return. The pieces Neve and Red need to put together will have ramifications for all of them. Just like the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, we can pick up one more similarity. Nothing is ever what it seems. Threaded into the amazing story, once again is the themes of love, loss, choices we make, and how far we are willing to go to save those we love. Even the covers are mirror images of each other. I was again swept up into this tale from the first page and engrossed in this new world Ms. Whitten created in For the Throne.
Neve is not like Red. She refuses to accept that she will not see her again. She is so distraught; she can do little in her grief and pain. When I look back at the choices Neve made, did she take in the darkness knowing what would happen? Did she know and not care? Was the choice to save her sister more important than the consequences of Miri’s fanaticism? Neve was certainly more trusting than Red. Then again, she was ripe to be taken advantage of. I feel much of her trust is a product of the different paths they were born into. Red, the sacrifice, Neve, the throne. Neve is powerless to save her sister, so she her choice is something that can give her the power, even knowing in the back of her mind that something is not quite right. In For the Throne, Neve becomes much less trusting and grows more confident. Upon entering the Shadoworld, it is Solmir who that Neve must learn to trust, like Red had to learn to trust Eammon. It is more difficult for Neve, as Arick bargained with Solmir to bring Red Back, and in exchange, Solmir used the illusion of Arick to fool Neve, and Arik was kept imprisoned. In this world, the lesser gods speak to her mind and call her the Shadow Queen.
Like Eammon, Solmir is connected to the Shadoworld, and Neve has become connected as well. Despite what he did, I liked Solmir’s character. He is certainly morally gray, and he makes no excuses for what he did. He claims to be on her side, wanting to destroy the Kings so they cannot escape, but again, he must earn her trust. As the only person in the Shadoworld, it is a hard-earned trust. There are monsters in this world, lesser gods and their offspring, who are less powerful than the Kings. Neve and Solmir must navigate this world, find the lesser gods and kill them, absorbing their magic before the Kings can. Solmir, while snarky and stoic, does want to protect Neve. I also enjoyed her change as she becomes just as stubborn and willful as Red. Solmir does not want her using shadow magic or absorbing too much, as it would darken her soul. While their relationship is different from Reds and Eammon, they do have those quick-witted exchanges, and there is certainly a physical attraction that lies beneath it all. Once again, Ms. Whitten has created two very different characters with a complicated relationship that grows into something more as Neve learns to trust this many she once hated.
Raffe figures more prominently in this book, as he is one of the POVs. He loves Neve, though she has never said she loved him. He joins Red and Eammon in finding a way for Neve to return. As the story progresses, both he and Neve think about their relationship and what happens when she does come back. He questions his feelings for her in this world, while she, in the Shadoworld, begins to question her feelings for him while she is with Solmir. They will always have the love of friendship, but when circumstances changes, sometimes true feelings come to the surface. I found this very realistic and relatable. To examine certain relationships, what they are, and perhaps realize that they were never what they seemed, is something we all do. It’s not bad, and Neve does not loose her feelings for Raffe, she simply scomes the realization that she does not love him beyond friendship.
The Shadoworld is the dark mirror of the Wilderwood. It was such an amazing world that Ms. Whitten created. It was colorless but for the stark blue eyes of Solmir. It was desolate and depressing, which I felt that as I read it. It is a never-ending colorless landscape, bleak and devoid of life. It was the perfect counter to the Wilderwood. In fact, most things in this world were mirror images of the surface. The trees were upside down. The branches reaching downwards and the roots upwards. What appeared to be mountains, are actually piles of bones of long dead gods, lesser gods, and their offspring. What I found very interesting was in the Shadoworld, they did not need to eat, drink, or even sleep, though Neve did tire and slept at times. There was no concept of time since there was no day or night. The sky remained the same-colorless as everything else. Neve and Solmir must travel, destroy the Kings, and find the Heart Tree in order for her to return to Red. It was beautifully done and so unique in terms of fantasy world building.
The pacing and prose were excellent. As with the first book, At no time did the story drag, or there were places when nothing happens and the reader feels like it is “filler” to move the plot along. In contrast to Red and Eammon, there were not the quiet moments of Red trying to convince Eammon to let her help him. Solmir is very different, and his quest is a different path. He needs Neve to return, needs her to kill the Kings. She feels the pull of the Shadoworld, but Solmir will only let her use her magic if she is connected to him. While the intimate tension is palpable, there are few moments where Somlmir lets his guard down. Once again, a perfect mirror image to how their relationship evolves to that of her sisters. Most of the book is told in the third person perspective of Neve. However, there is a sizable amount that is told from Reds and Raffe’s perspective. I thought this was a great choice to have in this book, rather than the interludes. In For the Wolf, the interludes were setting up what Neve was slowly becoming, the Shadow Queen. In For the Throne, she already is, and trapped in a world she does not want to stay in, whereas Red wanted to be in the Witherwood. We need Red’s and Raffe’s perspective as the former will once again to anything for her sister, and latter works to save her as well, while battling his feelings for her. I truly love Ms. Whitten’s prose and pacing of the books. It kept me reading non-stop from when I picked it up until the last page.
For the Throne, Hannah Whitten’s sequel to For the Wolf is a just as beautiful and unique. As with the first, I loved everything about this book. Neve’s growth as a character, becoming more confident, stubborn, and hesitant in who she trusts, was a highlight of the book. Red remains steadfast and strong, never wavering in rescuing her sister. The two books are mirror images of each other, one light and one dark. Red is light to Neve’s dark, and neither can be whole without the other. The paths they have chosen, as they navigate the worlds they are in, are very similar. Red, needing to trust Eammon, and Neve needing to trust Solmir’s. However, Solmir is morally gray, so it is more difficult for Neve, as he deceived her into taking magic in from the Shadoworld. As Red becomes the Wilderwood with Eammon, Neve becomes the Shadow Queen. Each are setting out on a journey to find the Heart Tree to free Neve. It is different for Neve as she wants to leave the world she is trapped in, but Red chose to stay. In trying to rescue her sister, Neve set in motion events that wreaked havoc on the Wilderwood and the Shadoworld. The worlds were vastly different, but again, the light and the dark are what runs through the books. The beauty and color of the Wilderwood contrasts with bleak, colorless Shadoworld. The pacing and prose are again excellent. It is told from multiple POVs, most often Neve and Red, and chapters also dedicated to Raffe. This telling is different from the first book. We need the different perspectives as freeing Neve is a puzzle, they must all solve. Raffe, in love with Neve, must confront, as does Neve, their true feelings for each other. The love of Red and Neve once again makes For the Throne a story of unconditional love, loss, and what one will sacrifice to save someone they love. It is of course all threaded into an amazing page turning adult fantasy story. For the Throne is a brilliant epic conclusion to a brilliant fantasy duology. I highly recommend this series for all readers, not just lovers of fantasy.
Summary (from NetGalley)
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.
My sincere thanks to Orbit Books for providing me with both copy of the book and ebook in exchange for an honest review.