Genre: Historical Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5 Swords
OKAY TRUTH TIME. I’ve had Fawkes by Nadine Brandes sitting on my shelf for ages. It had a beautiful cover. It had an interesting blurb. I follow Nadine on social media and she’s literally one of the sweetest, kindest individuals on earth.
So why didn’t I pick up the book as soon as I got it?
In all honesty, it’s because when I had picked up Nadine’s debut YA Christian fiction series, I got frustrated with it and couldn’t finish. Parts felt too unrealistic. Other parts felt too preachy. Maybe it was just the stage of life I was in at the time though, because since reading Fawkes I do plan on revisiting this series. But I was afraid to pick up Fawkes because I didn’t want it to be preachy either.
This fall, though, I decided enough was enough. People continued to recommend fall books to me, and you’d be surprised how many times Fawkes came up along a wide spectrum of readers. I decided to give it a go.
And man, I was not disappointed.
If you haven’t heard of it or read it before, Fawkes is a historical fantasy YA novel about the legend of Guy Fawkes, who planned to blow up Parliament. The story incorporates color magic, which is really cool, and more on that in a moment.
Thomas, son of Guy Fawkes, is about to have his color test at school to bond with a particular color and receive his mask, which will mark him a man in their society and allow him to use that particular color’s power. When his father fails to show and bring him his mask, however, Thomas embarks on a journey to London to find his father and demand he be given his mask. It’s especially important for Thomas to get his mask because he has the Stone Plague, which is literally turning his body to stone, and he believes bonding with a color using a mask is the only way he’ll be able to stop the spread of the plague.
Thomas does find his father but what ensues is the last thing he expects. He’s asked to join a handful of men to overthrow the King and Parliament, and it’s of interest to Thomas because of the war between Keepers and Igniters. Keepers, like Thomas, Guy Fawkes, and the men they are with, believe it is only acceptable to bond with one color power. The King, Parliament, and most others throughout the world with color power, use White Light, which enables them to use every color. It’s also claimed that through the use of White Light, the Igniters have brought down the Stone Plague on everyone else.
Thomas agrees to join his father and the rest of the men involved in the plot in order to not only stop his Stone Plague and help Keepers, but to earn his mask, which his father has promised him once the plot is done. Through the secrecy and undercover work, though, Thomas begins to doubt his mission. He becomes servant to Emma, a ward of a Parliament member he’s supposed to keep an eye on, and also an Igniter, but the way she uses White Light isn’t for bad. And when the Stone Plague starts spreading in massive outbreaks, the correlation between the plague and the Igniters begins to blur.
When given all the facts, Thomas is forced to make the hardest decision of his life — become his own man or fight for a cause his father falsely believes in.
I cannot even begin to describe my love for this book. It honestly surprised me just how much I enjoyed it! The idea of color power was really unique, and I loved the way Brandes incorporated it throughout the story. It was an element of importance, not one made up for a couple fun or shock-worthy details/scenes and then ignored the rest of the book. I had also never heard of the legend of Guy Fawkes before, so I got a wee bit of an educational boost while reading. *winks* Seriously though, if you haven’t heard of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, either look it up or read this book. Or both. Both is good.
While I’m usually a sucker for slower beginnings that really draw out the story, I was impressed with the fast start of this book and how much I liked it. You’re drawn into the action from page one and I can promise you that it doesn’t stop until the last one. Despite all the craziness I had going on in my life at the time, I read this book in a week or under a week, I’m pretty sure. And the days where I had to stop reading, either to babysit or run errands or what have you, I didn’t want to. It was literally painful to have to set the book down and wait for another free moment to read.
The characters were wonderful, as well! Ah, the characters. Thomas was a likable main character, which is something I had worried about since I didn’t like the main character in Brandes’ debut series. And Emma is a gem. She’s strong and beautiful and talented, and I love the way Brandes portrayed her in that time period. Also, her ship with Thomas? They are literally the cutest thing. If you read for NOTHING else, read for that, okay? It was a nice addition to the book that I don’t think readers will find tedious or distracting.
So…why only 4.5 stars instead of 5?
Honestly, these are minor things, and some people probably won’t agree with me. The reason I dropped half a star from my rating is because, in the beginning, things felt too rushed. They weren’t just fast; they were rushed. Some details that were brought up weren’t mentioned again later in the story, and there were a few character inconsistencies in the beginning that were distracting. As in, “Wait, Thomas should not be acting this way because it literally doesn’t make sense for what we’ve seen of his personality so far.” Thankfully those things went away after the first few chapters, but it bothered me initially. Also, we never know much about the other characters, outside of Emma and Thomas. I would have liked to see a little bit more depth to the others, but since the story was told from Thomas’ point of view, I understand why Brandes limited it.
Overall, this was a fantastic book, and I can’t recommend it enough — especially for a fall read. It’s the perfect book for sitting inside when there’s a crisp chill in the air, snuggled in blankets or in front of a fire with cookies and something warm to drink. 🙂
Have you read Fawkes or any other books by Nadine Brandes? What were your thoughts?