After reading Nadine Brandes’s book, Romanov, I decided to read her other standalone novel, Fawkes. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! As someone who generally doesn’t read a lot of fantasy, I was a little hesitant about diving into one, especially since it was also a historical fiction novel, but I was pleasantly surprised, in many ways. Fawkes is a beautiful little book about family, learning how to find the truth, and ultimately, deciding if the truth is worth fighting for.
“With his mask and my sword, we could subdue even the shadows.”
I really like this book. It’s probably not a novel that I’ll reread much, but I’m definitely glad that I read it once. It has a lot of important life lessons tucked into it’s magical pages, and I think more people need to read this book because of those threads, specifically. It deals with a lot of horrible and terrible things, but it does so in a way that felt authentic and true to the story. Huge props to Nadine for handling these difficult topics with such care and gentleness.
Racism, discrimination, a few uses of the n-word, death (hangings, executions, drowning, shootings), sword fights, injuries, bloodshed, torture, mentions of kidnapping, self-harm (a person tries to remove the stone plague from their shoulder), magic, drunkenness, and kissing (not described in detail).
If you would like more information about potentially triggering content or have questions about the above trigger warnings, please send me a message via the “Contact Me” page or DM me on one of my social media accounts and I will provide more information and details.
What I Liked
The family tension. Every child wants to make their parents proud, and I think Nadine handled this desire in Thomas in a really lovely way. He wanted to make his father proud of him, but he also wanted to be his own person, not a pawn in a bigger game. So, without going into any spoilers, I really loved the dynamic between Thomas and Guy Fawkes.
Emma. She was just a lovely character who was strong and basically everything that I want to see in a strong, female character. I don’t want a strong female who doesn’t act…like a female. I want more strong characters like Emma who are strong and brave and willing to fight for truth, but also embrace who they are and aren’t afraid to be emotional or empathetic.
The stone plague. This was so deliciously creepy and disturbing. I won’t lie, there were a few scenes that involved Thomas and his plague that were difficult for me to get through (because I’m sensitive to some descriptions of pain, blood, and gore), but it was also incredibly well-written. Nadine went all out with the plague and created something so insanely horrifying that the idea of it makes me shiver.
The entire magic system. It sounds cliche on the surface, but honestly, it was unlike anything that I’ve ever seen or read before. And I think it was because of the white light. I know that some other people have felt conflicted about the white light and it being an allegory for God or the Holy Spirit. But, I loved it. I understand that it isn’t supposed to be a flawless representation of Jesus, but it captured a part of Him that drew me closer to Him…that brought me peace that He really is always there for us, fighting alongside our battles, both physically and spiritually.
What I Didn’t Like
It had slow moments. There were times when I had to almost force myself to pick it back up. The pacing was drawn out a little more than I liked and that made it hard to get back into it. But once I powered through those moments, it picked up so ferociously that I couldn’t put it down again.
I really, truly love this book, and would recommend it to anyone who loves historical fantasy, murder plots, complicated family relationships, and fascinating magic systems. I proudly award this book four stars!
“Curiosity causes us to seek the truth.”
“You can’t judge an entire group of people by the actions of a few.”
“There has always been fear. There will always be fear. It’s up to us to stand tall, even when the fear demands we bow to it.”
“But perhaps bravery meant entering into a storm you already knew would destroy you.”
Check out my Fawkes Playlist
About the Book
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.
About the Author
Nadine Brandes once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. She is the award-winning author of Fawkes, Romanov, and the Out of Time Series. Her inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When she’s not busy writing novels about bold living, she’s adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. Nadine, her Auror husband, and their Halfling children are building a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom.
Have you read Fawkes yet? What did you think? Did you love it or did it miss the mark for you? Which character was your favorite? If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you love historical fantasy.