“Fawkes” By Nadine Brandes
Gunpowder, and Treason, and Plot
By Samantha Shrider / March 27, 2018
Author: Nadine Brandes
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 10th 2018
Source & Format: iTunes, iBook
Page Count: 352 (Hardcover)
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.
Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.
But what if death finds him first?
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.
The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.
No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.
The premise of “Fawkes” is what caught my attention, I love fantasy stories that take real life events and make them their own. I wish this book had existed when I was learning about the Gunpowder Plot in high school because Brandes did her research, and even has a section in the back of the book about what and who were real players in the historical event versus what was expanded on for the fictional story.
“This plot was a revolution built on corpses.”
For those of who don’t know, the Gunpowder Plot was centered in England around a group of Roman Catholic revolutionaries furious at the persecution of their faith. After 45 years of hounding under the reign of Elizabeth I, they had hoped for better treatment from the new monarch James I. Unfortunately things did not improve and they developed a plan to kill the King.
The story that Brandes has woven together follows Thomas Fawkes; son to legendary Guy Fawkes, as he completes his color training, the source of magic in this world. Thomas is infected by the stone plague and is convinced he will be able to heal himself once he receives the mask that will allow him to control a single color; but Guy and the other plotters need a maskless member to help their group complete their mission and so Thomas is forced to work with them, and against his friend Emma, until his father deems him loyal to color power.
Personally I found Thomas to be a bit whiny, in the first several chapters he reeks of entitlement despite the effort that goes into making it seem like he has nothing and no one. His main motivation is constantly himself despite the many times that he is faced with other’s suffering. Once the world building is established his character does have an arc and development.
“I had thought only of myself. My plague. My healing. My future. Father thought of England. Of others.”
My favorite character by far was Emma, Thomas’s friend and love interest, and I found myself wishing the story were through her eyes instead, as she was the more interesting and multifaceted of the two. I would like to see some short stories or novellas from the author about this character in the future.
Parts of the book moved a little slow, which I felt had more to do with me and my expectations than with the actual story. I find that I’m used to YA moving at a quick clip and so to have Fawkes be a bit of a slow burn took me off guard at first. There’s a lot of information to take in with this one, so it’s a book you really have to pay attention to and be invested in, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Overall I gave the book four out of five stars as I wish it had been a smidge faster paced and that Thomas had been slightly less annoying. The metaphors between color power, and white light and God were a bit obvious- even for someone who isn’t familiar with the actual history of the plot. I really enjoyed the other characters, the plot and the world building. I definitely felt like Brandes writing captured the unique tone of a male character from 1605, and Thomas’s voice definitely stood out in my head. The formatting was off in the e-ARC I was sent but I’m giving the publisher the benefit of the doubt that these issues will be fixed by the final printing. I’ll definitely be picking up a hard copy in July!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
About the Author
I once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. I’m also the author of the award-winning The Out of Time Series and my inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When I’m not busy writing novels about bold living, I’m adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. I and my Auror husband are building a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom.