Fawkes, Nadine Brandes


Safety is an illusion, Thomas Fawkes

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.

* * *
3 / 5

I loved the premise of Fawkes: historical British fiction with a fantasy element. Thomas Fawkes is the (invented?) son of Guy Fawkes but added into this classic story of gunpowder and treason and plot is a really innovative magic system. But on the downside, this was a very long and slow read for the length.

Hadn’t I always dreamed of being her knight? Saving the day? Only I’d saved nothing. She’d been her own knight and I’d stood by like a gaping spectator

Like any good English child, what I really know about Guy Fawkes is that which we tell around our yearly bonfire and sing-a-long. Obviously I knew how it was going to end, but I wasn’t all that clear on the details. I’m reasonably sure that a lot of the characters were lifted from history, which was cool – I’m not a massive historical fiction reader, so I really dug recognising all the little nods to history. Who isn’t from history (I don’t think)? Thomas Fawkes, a guy with complex father issues, a girl he’s loved from afar for years but who is essentially engaged, and who is stuck in the middle of a conflict tearing the country apart.

So we’ve covered the historical element, but what about the fantasy one? Parents carve their children a mask and when they become of age, the child wears the mask and bonds with a colour power. What does this mean? I’m still not exactly certain, but Keepers only bond with one colour – so if someone bonds with red then they can control things that are red – whilst Igniters have varying degrees of control over all the colours. Keepers think this is the cause of the Stone Plague – the Great Plague that instead of killing people slowly turns them to stone.

Did murder ever free anyone? This plot was a revolution built on corpses. It wasn’t how things were supposed to be

Fawkes was definitely imaginative, no doubt about it. I loved the mix of real history with magic. But there are so many people in this book, so much going on between Thomas, the romance, the Gunpowder plot, trying to understand the magic and the cause of the conflict. I wanted to savour the complexities, but Fawkes ended up being more confusing and head-scratching than engaging. This made it quite put-down-able and took me a while to finish.

I would definitely recommend Fawkes to the YA and fantasy readers wanting to tentatively dip their toes into the waters of historical fiction. But the book was a bit weak in terms of pacing.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book. 


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