Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Setting: 1604-1605 London
***I received an eARC copy of Fawkes from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via NetGalley***
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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.