ARC Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes


FawkesCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Setting: 1604-1605 London

***I received an eARC copy of Fawkes from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via NetGalley***

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: A perfectly fine read, but ultimately forgettable. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes is a fantastical young adult retelling of the Gunpowder Plot, and Fawkes focuses on the son of Guy Fawkes, Thomas.

I did enjoy all of the historical aspects of the book, and it was apparent that Nadine Brandes has done her research. Brandes throws magic into the mix, which adds a level of excitement and unpredictability to the plot. We know historically what happened with the Gunpowder Plot, but while reading Fawkes we aren’t sure if Brandes will follow history exactly or change it up. This made the story feel fresh, and I’m loving the magical historical retellings popular in young adult fiction now.

Fawkes feels like a title that I would’ve loved had I read this when I was a young adult. This is very much a young adult title. The themes are applicable to young adults, and it isn’t filled with gore, sex, or language. There are many young adult books out there that feel written with adult readers in mind. Or perhaps I should say that the books are marketed towards young adults, but have very adult scenes in them (for example, books by Sarah J. Maas). Fawkes felt very much like a title that was written with teen readers in mind, and this actually was quite refreshing, but to be honest I did feel that the book was a bit young for me (I’m in my late 30s).

Now let’s talk about the magic and the world Fawkes is set in. I kept writing down the terms as I read, so I could keep everything straight. The magic of Fawkes involves being able to speak to and control colors (“color power”). There is a war of sorts between Keepers, who believe that you should only be able to control one color, and the Igniters, who believe that you should be able to control multiple colors at once. The Igniters are in power, and Fawkes and company are Keepers, so that’s the central drama of the book. I thought much of the magic here was fine, if a bit too much of a mashup between popular books (ie, Harry Potter, Divergent, Red Rising, and A Song of Ice and Fire all came to mind while I read this).

For the characters, Thomas Fawkes is a nice lead character. It was nice to read YA told from a guy’s point of view, and Thomas was a likeable hero. Guy Fawkes and his rebel friends are given a lot of time here, and I kept mixing them all up. None of them ever stood out enough to me in terms of personality in order for me to have an opinion about them either way. And because of this lack of connection towards the rebels, I didn’t really care much who sat the throne, or if the Keepers were going to be successful in their endeavor.

My favorite character was Emma Areben, a classmate of Thomas’s. Emma was smart and capable, and she really reminded me of Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. Which was great! We need more solid and strong female leads that aren’t afraid to be intelligent and opinionated. I enjoyed her scenes and thought her story was where the heart of the book was.

While there were many enjoyable things about Fawkes, I couldn’t connect with the central conflict of the book (Keepers vs Igniters), and therefore truly couldn’t muster up any excitement while reading this. It also felt a bit young for me, but that just means that it truly is a young adult read. I think I would’ve gotten more out of this had I read it at a younger age.

Bottom Line: A fine read that failed to excite.

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Author Website

Does this sound like a book that you’d like to read? Have you read any other books about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot?


5 thoughts on “ARC Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

  1. I don’t get why colors are a big deal. What happens when someone manipulates colors, and how does that affect other people? It feels like they’re trying to connect more colors with more power, thus more power equals Bad People.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The colors thing I kept over-analyzing while I read. Supposedly, you could control one color – which you could only do while wearing a mask – and the color you controlled was determined in a ceremony similar to those ceremonies in Harry Potter or Divergent that would determine which house or which faction you belonged to. So, some controlled the color green (leaves, plants, anything green), others would control blue (water, sky), other could control black (shadows). But, I kept over-analyzing this like what if something was blue-green, or that water was all muddy… who would control it then? Would someone control the blue sky until a rain cloud came along? What about colors that are exactly even combos of two (or three or four!) different colors? And the Grey’s seemed to control people’s health, which I didn’t quite get why that would be the color grey. I just couldn’t connect with the magic and the divide over controlling just one color vs more than one color. But, I think that I was just over thinking the whole thing.
      And yeah, I do agree with you that they were connecting the more color control = more power, and I think there were also religious parallels there too, but I just couldn’t really feel any emotion towards the conflict of the story.


      1. You know, the color connection, the way you described it, reminds me of Magic the Gathering, a card game that uses red, blue, green, and black. The characters in the cards control things in the element of that color. Green is forest and forest animals, red is lava and Earth and lava monsters, blue is water and water creatures, and black is death and swamps.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s