Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Book: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Release Date: July 10th 2018
Tags: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical / Historical Fantasy / 17th century / England / London / POC
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 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.
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 was so excited when I saw Fawkes on Netgalley. Not only did I recognize the author’s name from instagram, but everything about the synopsis screamed my attention. Stone plague, masks, color magic. And better yet, a historical fantasy that I have been meaning to get into more. Unfortunately this one left me feeling very conflicted on how I feel.
The book starts us of with Thomas. Thomas has the stone plague in his face, where as the name suggests, he is partly turning to stone. He tries very hard to hide this so he won’t be send away from school before his masking ceremony. When he receives his mask he will be able to call upon one color and use their magic. Unlike others however he believes as a keeper in only calling and bonding with one color. The majority and his king are igniters and belief in bonding with the color white who can help them use all the colors. It is a silent war where keepers are being prosecuted.
I really, really liked the idea of a stone plague, needing a mask to use magic and of the color magic. In the basic level that was incorporated well into the book. However for a 400+ book I felt that we could have gotten a lot more depth on the use of colors. Also I would have liked to have gotten more information about the keepers and the color white. It was suggested a few times that they went way back but this was never deepened out in anyway.
The book is slow. The first 300 pages are slowly setting things up in the world. Which is understandable with a historical fantasy. We have to see where it fits into our history and how the magic works into that. Unfortunately nearing the middle part I felt that it got excruciatingly slow to the point where I found little enjoyment in picking this book up. I can truly love a slow book but I need to feel as if we are heading somewhere, as if I am being submerged into the world and in this case it just wasn’t. The last 100+ pages really stepped forward again and gained momentum. This was the kind of thing that I was expecting of the book. Excitement, intrigue. But by then it was too late and my interest had already wavered too much.
I think one of the biggest problems as to why I could not really submerge myself into the world is that I didn’t care for our main character Thomas. He is mister plain. There was nothing to catch my interest about him and if you would ask me to describe his personality I would stumble. I guess he was headstrong and stubborn.
Instead I felt more of an interest in Emma who stood out in this historical fantasy. Not only because of her skin color but also because of who she was. Strong, trying to find the way in a society so incredibly restrictive of every essence of who she was, poc and female. Her view on the world and the color war was also very different and I think the story would have been so much more vibrant from her point of view.