Book Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Book: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Published July 2018 by Thomas Nelson|448 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Alternate History/Fantasy

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. 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.

I really liked Fawkes!  There’s a lot I really liked about the book, and I’m glad I read it.

For starters, I liked that cover.  It’s different, and it definitely got my attention.  I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen, though I probably could have solved that simply by reading the book jacket.  I did like how it connected to the story.

I also liked how Brandes mixed history and fantasy.  It’s the Gunpowder Plot, but with color magic.  There’s a plague that turns people to stone.  How can you not like that?  It’s not completely factual, of course, so if you like your historical fiction accurate, this is not the book for you, since this is more of an alternate history than anything else.

I liked that it focused on something I wasn’t too familiar with.  I had heard of Guy Fawkes (in relation to Guy Fawkes Day), and I had heard of the Gunpowder Plot, but wasn’t too familiar with the details.  So I liked reading about something I wasn’t too familiar with.

And when you add in magic and masks, and control of color, it becomes even more cool.  So instead of Catholics versus Protestants, you have Keepers (control over one color) and Igniters (control over all colors using White Light).  And there are masks they wear, and it shows the color that’s most dominant for you, plus there’s a school and testing.  Oh, and masks are made by their parents, so if your parent doesn’t make you one, you’re out of luck.  Which means Thomas has to go to his father in order to get a mask, since his dad didn’t make him one.  I like the idea that it’s the only way to connect to the magic, and to be able to use it.

I did wish that we saw more of how the magic worked.  What is it’s place in society, and how does it make society better (or worse)?  Clearly, magical factions replaced religion, but what do each of the colors represent?  Only a few colors are mentioned, and it could be interesting to see how different shades affected things.  Like, is there a different between ruby red and cherry red, or is it all the same, regardless of shade?

I mean, I know that book is the Gunpowder Plot with magic instead of religion, so it’s only going to be a stand-alone (and not a series).  There’s only so far you can take it.  There’s no way to stretch it out, especially if you’re sticking with history.  It would have been cool if the king had been assassinated, and there were more books that could go into detail about the history.

Still, I get (and appreciate) that maybe the author was trying to keep things simple.  Especially if magic is a stand-in for religion.  Generally, I don’t read past Elizabeth I, so I’m not too familiar with her successor, but just based off of that, there was a lot of back-and-forth on religion, so I can see wanting to have a basic structure in place.

I did get a pretty good sense of what was going on, and the disagreements on color magic, so it did its job pretty well.  I think I just wanted a little more detail than what we’d get in a stand-alone.

4 stars.  Overall, I really liked it, but I wish there was a little more with the magic system.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

  1. Have read this book before too and I sooo agree! The cover is really pretty. And the color magic part really was awesome! It’s different than anything I’ve ever read and the issue between Keepers and Igniters are interesting to read.

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