Fawkes Review

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,” This poem is all I really knew about the Gunpowder Plot. So when I first heard of Nadine Brandes’ historical fantasy novel, I figured there wasn’t a better way to learn a bit more than in a book filled with magic! The beautiful cover caught my eye and the synopsis solidified the deal.

Synopsis: “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.”

The Good:

  1. This book really opened my eyes to the political and social unrest of the day. I learned about Luther and the Reformation in school and I knew at one point there was a terrible plague that swept Europe, but I never realized how much of this was happening at once. Through Thomas’ journey I came to a much better understanding of why the Gunpowder Plot happened to begin with.
  2. The world is a vibrant mix of historical England and a unique world built fundamentally on magic. Both of which have always interested me. I love the idea of color magic and the use of masks.
  3. There are some beautifully flawed characters. Thomas’ is torn between his desire for a cure along with his father’s love and his need to know the truth before committing himself to high treason. Similarly, Emma is trapped between her desire to be known for her talents or who she truly is and her fear to leave the safety of what she has always known. They are both be a bit annoying at times, but I enjoyed watching them grow and come to terms with who they are and the decisions they make.
  4. The end is very moving, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out why!

The Bad:

  1. Although the magic system is an interesting concept and very prevalent throughout the book, it is never clearly explained. Especially the role of White Light. The topic is touched upon and vague facts are given when Thomas and Emma argue, but you never quite see the whole picture. The Christian allegory is clear enough that I understood, but I would have preferred for the in-world scenario to be more fleshed out. And honestly, constantly calling it White Light instead of just White (or even Light) like the rest of the color words got a bit irritating, but that’s neither here nor there. However, I must say the slightly snarky personality of White Light was a refreshing twist.
  2. I felt like many of the integral characters and relationships fall a bit flat. The basics are there and you have just enough information to draw your own conclusions, but none of them delve very deep. I especially wanted to see more of Thomas’ relationship with Guy (his estranged father) and Norwood (his father figure). Both of these relationships had so much potential, and exploring them just a bit more would have really upped the stakes.

My Rating: 4/5

Overall, this is a very good book that will appeal to both history buffs and fantasy fans. The writing is well done and the story engaging, with plenty of intrigue and close calls befitting an assassin story.

Top 5 Wizarding Women

It’s International Women’s Day! I love a story with strong female characters. There are as many ways to be strong as there are women, and I especially appreciate books that can introduce me to a wide range. I also love Harry Potter! Which just so happens to be one of those books. So, here I give you my top 5 wizarding women, each a queen in her own unique way.

  1. Hermione: I have always identified with Hermione. We are both bookish, a bit awkward, and terrified of getting in trouble. Hermione has one thing on me though, she is far more outspoken. I love the way she stands up for her beliefs. Whether it’s a personal crusade like SPEW, defending her best friends, or actively fighting Voldemort, she never backs down.
  2. Mrs. Weasley: I appreciate the nurturing/feisty mom type characters, and Mrs. Weasley is one of the best! She is perfectly happy with her traditional role as mother and wife, and she loves her family fiercely. That’s not to say she doesn’t get her moment to shine. Her fight with Bellatrix is the most satisfying way that could have played out for me.
  3. Ginny: Now, Ginny is one tough girl. She goes though a lot most probably wouldn’t have survived and comes out fighting. I love her determination and spunk. I’m so happy she finally got Harry.
  4. McGonagall: I always liked McGonagall’s stern but cool teacher vibe. However, now that I work in a high school and interact closely with the teachers, I’ve developed a whole new level of appreciation for her. I saw a meme on Pinterest once (totally legit source, I know) that said something along the lines of, “Live your life in a way that would make McGonagall both proud and exasperated.” And really, that’s the best sum-up and highest praise anyone could give her. Never forget, the one thing that made Harry angry enough to use an unforgivable curse was seeing her disrespected.
  5. Tonks: Tonks is such a fun-loving, easy-going, young auror, it’s hard not to like her. Unlike Mrs. Weasly, she is awful at housework. That doesn’t stop her from trying though. The thing that made me really fall in love with her, however, is when I realized exactly how epic it is for her to get up and fight just days after having a baby. I’ve never experienced child-birth myself (yet) but I have heard some pretty terrifying stories from older women in my life and I don’t think many would have been able to do what Tonks did.
  6. *Bonus!* Bellatrix: Ok, she’s a bonus because I don’t really like her. However, I think she is a very well-written, complex, character and I appreciate that. Her creepiness is, well creepy, but appropriately so and she makes a great villainous sidekick.

And there you have it! Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite wizarding woman; and, if you’d like to talk female character archetypes, check out my Facebook!