~4.5 stars~ Reading this story was a venture into the unknown for this historical-fiction lover. I’ve read plenty of stories that played fast and loose with historical facts, but not a book that deliberately sets out to meld historical fact with elements of fantasy. In the case of the former, I’m definitely not a fan, but I found the treatment Nadine Brandes gave the story of the Gunpowder Plot intriguing. In many ways, it’s a coming-of-age story, with Thomas Fawkes—Guy Fawkes’ son—in the starring role. And it’s the combination of the historical plot (the Gunpowder Plot) and the fantasy element (the colour powers) that drives his character growth.
One of the most fascinating aspects for me was the way in which the colour powers (and the resulting philosophical differences between Igniters and Keepers as to how such colour powers were to be used) replaced the religious tensions that existed at that time in history. I don’t want to give too much away, but I especially loved the sassy voice of White Light—the source of all colours, and yet neither sought nor understood by Igniters or Keepers. In many ways, this element of the story distilled millennia of religious disagreement down to one essential problem: “Standing for my beliefs isn’t always the same as standing for truth.” A big part of Thomas’s growth is his gradual transition from fighting for what he believes in to seeking truth.
The complicating factor in all of this is Thomas’s relationship with his father. Despite never having really known his father, he is desperate for his approval—not to mention his father is the only person who can give him the mask that will allow him to bond with a color and finally exercise his own color power. But his father’s life is wrapped up in the Gunpowder Plot, a cause Thomas is less and less sure he believes in. It’s a tangled web of emotions with a sharply poignant conclusion.
The other character who deserves a mention here is Emma. The development of her friendship with Thomas enriched the story and provided a romantic element that was perfect for YA readers. And she ended up being my favourite character! She’s a strong, intelligent woman, despite—or perhaps, because of—the disadvantages she’s overcome. But I’ll say no more on that point!
My one complaint is that the pace of the story seemed to lag in places, but I would definitely recommend this story to historical fiction lovers who are looking for something a little different.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
I received this book as an ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
My favourite thing about this book is probably that Emma was a strong character who could look after herself and beat half the boys at their own game.
I really loved the idea of how the colour masks and Colour Test worked. The book is set in 1604, but doesn't have the 'ye olde english' feel to the words. Plus I adore this cover as it's so pretty.
There being a White Light as one of the colours was an interesting point to include in the book and how every colour apparently stemmed from it. I also loved its sass and how it sounded like a best friend would a couple of times. A couple of times I guessed that Guy Fawkes or Emma may have been White Light users too, but we do find out whether they actually are or not.
If someone, somewhere, somehow, can also make a Lady's Ball like how it was described in Fawkes then I will be very grateful as it sounded beautiful and definitely makes me want to go. Well, maybe make it without a few of the pieces we're told about.
I also cringed pretty hard at the end though when we find out how they attach the mask to the Gunpowder Plot plotter's faces. Plus the information we find out at the end of the book about the true story behind the book is pretty fascinating stuff too.
In 17th century England, Thomas Fawkes is coming of age to receive his colour mask but he is also turning to stone. The stone plague has claimed many lives and continues to spread. The Igniters believe the Keepers caused the plague while the Keepers believe the opposite, but Guy Fawkes, Thomas' father, is part of a plot that believes the key to ending the plague is to assassinate the King of England and he wants Thomas to help them.
Thomas is a complex young man seeking his father's approval and a cure for the stone plague, though his goals and beliefs change many times until he finds his own truth. He has to battle prejudice and illness everywhere he goes and, once he learns of the plot, he must battle his own doubts and the mysterious White Light that keeps reaching out to him. Regardless of his circumstances, Thomas is kind and has an admirable amount of strength, in more ways than one.
Guy Fawkes is strong in many ways too, with his will matching his physical strength. His name is legend and he seems to be regarded as one of the most important men in the plot. However, he could do with some improvement in the area of being a father.
Emma Areben is an admirable character. A young woman hidden behind her mask and ward to a Baron, but she knows Thomas' secret and does not seem to mind his ignorance of the way the world works. There is much more to Emma than meets the eye and there was definitely some personal growth that improved her, but she was by far my favourite character.
I will admit it took me a few chapters before I began to enjoy it, but once the story reached London it flowed and the story became quite interesting. The Stone Plague, the colour power, the masks, the plot, the diversity, the self-discovery, the personal growth and a desire for the truth - all of these elements made every chapter intriguing and enjoyable. I like that the story and many of the characters are based on history as it is told in history books but with a fictional and somewhat magical twist. I cannot think of anything that would have increased my enjoyment of Fawkes. I loved this book and look forward to reading more by Nadine Brandes in the future.