Author Nadine Brandes
Description from Amazon
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.
The premise of this story seemed super unique and I had not read very much about Guy Fawkes, so this story immediately caught my eye. I also liked the idea of a male narrator. I typically read either alternating POVs between the main characters or strictly feminine narration (for no reason other than a lot of YA books are written that way). So, I thought a male narrator would be an interesting change of pace.
The mask on the cover is easily the most noticeable feature. However, despite being noticeable, it is not what we traditionally think of as a Guy Fawkes mask (or, what I think of as a V for Vendetta mask). My first thought was because this is the story of Thomas Fawkes, why would he wear the same mask as his father? This was how I justified the cover being something more than a historical inaccuracy. Side note, my theory proved to be correct.
The magic system. The system of masks and color magic that could control certain aspects of the world was fascinating. Also, the metaphor of Keepers and Igniters was a brilliant way to illustrate the historical issue of Catholics and the Church of England at the time. The story, while being somewhat historically accurate, captured the tension and struggles of the time without being weighed down by religion.
Additionally, I thought the way Nadine Brandes handles racism in 17th century England was also quite interesting. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to read this one to find out what I mean.
I didn’t know much about Guy Fawkes (besides the poem about November 5th), so this story painted him in a way that I never really saw coming. Overall, the story tackles some huge issues without the book feeling like a textbook or lecture.
Recommendations for Further Reading
- The Witch Hunter and The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker – both of these books, along with Fawkes, feature an alternate England with many nods to real historical events.
- An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley – this is another historical fiction novel that mixes magic with real historical events. A must read for fans of historical YA fiction.
- The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern – not quite the same genre, but this is another story where romance and magic are woven into historical fiction.
**Don’t forget to check out Nadine Brandes’ new novel coming in May 2019, Romanov.**