Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
4.5 stars. I was initially going to only give it a four, but oh my the emotional pay off at the end. So yeah.
An alternate history of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in a magical Britain, Fawkes follows Thomas Fawkes, the (maybe imaginary) son of Guy Fawkes and his desperate attempt to gain his colour mask from a distant father. Fortunately, you don't need to know any history to follow this story! I only had a sketchy idea of Guy Fawkes Night based on Enid Blyton stories and V for Vendetta... but after finishing Fawkes (and before starting this review) I went to google Guy Fawkes to find that almost everything in the story is accurate. Well, except for Thomas (though rumours say Guy had a son), the magical Stone Plague, Emma and colour magic.
Kicked out of school, Thomas sets off to London in search of his father, the only one who can give him the mask that will enable him to use colour magic and ensure a place in society. Fawkes is a coming-of-age story, with Thomas learning to search for the truth and stand for his beliefs--though it will ultimately either set him against the estranged Keeper father he so desperately yearns for approval from or against the Igniter girl he has come to love. Whichever side he takes, there is no going back in this war.
The story is gripping and the stakes are high, though there are some draggy-ish bits here and there. It's everything you could want from a Historical Fantasy, probably (I don't read enough of these to really say). Brandes describes the difference between Igniters and Keepers by paring down the differences between Protestants and Catholics into something simple to understand: direct access to God (or in this case White Light). It felt really blatantly obvious to me at first, which led to some impatience--and the primary reason it's a personal 4-star--until I realised that this is something the general reading (i.e. non-Christian) public wouldn't pick up on (or would they? I dunno).
Fawkes ultimate provides a balanced view of the reasons behind a religious war in an exciting novel. No one group is right or wrong--each has their legitimate worries and issues--but everything is muddied by personal agendas, politics, and disinformation. The novel manages to get its point across without being preachy and without pushing one group's view above another, showing both group's strengths and weaknesses as Thomas grapples with the issue in a personal capacity. Because that's what faith is about, isn't it? A personal conviction that made in spite of opposition?
I loved seeing Thomas grow and change throughout Fawkes--and that his greatest wish was finally fulfilled. :)
Note: I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.
View all my reviews