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.

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