Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (Review)

Yes, I’m finally getting around to reviewing this, and I’m afraid it wasn’t my favorite. I’m sorry!

Title: Fawkes

Author: Nadine Brandes

  • Date read: December 29, 2018
  • Rating: 2 stars
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy
  • Age: YA (darker side)
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 430 (hardcover)
  • Source: The publisher, through Booklook Bloggers

My Review

I finally read FAWKES and, awkwardly, I didn’t love it. *shifty eyes* *stows self away behind fortifications*

Firstly, taste in books varies, and this review is just my personal opinion! FAWKES wasn’t my cup of tea, but if it’s yours, that’s great! I feel like nearly everyone I know loved this, and I’m sad that I didn’t. I enjoy books in general, but this one unfortunately did not click for me.

Negative reviews are not my forte, but this was a review book, and a few people have asked for my opinion, so I’m going to attempt to share a review. I know it’s long overdue. *cough* (It’s also going to be terribly hard to do without spoilers but I will do my best.)

And at the end I’ll list the things I did like, since that’s only fair. 😉

But firstly, reasons why FAWKES and I did not get along, personally.

For one thing, it was rather dark and depressing. That in itself is enough for me to decide it wasn’t my thing. Despite the fantasy aspect, the setting was gritty and unpleasant and actually rather more dystopian than anything, and I just wouldn’t want to live there. The plot itself is pretty dark and violent, if only because of the historical incidents it’s dealing with — which, well, not to get into spoilers but I should have known better than to think things would turn out well, but apparently I didn’t think about that? My mistake! The stone plague was super creepy, too — though I’ll grant it was unique and interesting. XD

But talking of the historical aspect: for some reason I thought that since it was historical FANTASY, history wasn’t set in stone. (No pun intended. XD) I mean, it’s already an alternate history since there’s magic and different factions and stuff, so why can’t that mean that the characters can bring about different outcomes in history and it could be alternate history in THAT way too? Well, apparently it didn’t work that way. Which . . . yeah. It kind of made things seem pointless, to me. Especially when one character didn’t seem to care about this thing that *I* at least thought was awful. And it felt like it was a “well, since it’s history, regardless of the choices they make it’s going to turn out this way, so it doesn’t matter” sort of subtext. That might have worked with time-travel but apparently I just wasn’t suspending my disbelief enough there or something.

Apparently taking a historical time, not improving it, and mixing in magic and a few modern points of view is a thing that happens and that I don’t seem to enjoy much, myself, given that the last two such books I tried I didn’t like. (Maybe I’ll steer clear of historical fantasy in the future . . . That might help.)

Plus, hardly anybody was a nice person, which just sort of depressed me? A lot. If you can’t even LIKE hardly any of the characters in the book, it’s sort of a problem. For me, at any rate. 😛 (Flawed characters, yayyy.) I’ve discussed this about other fiction before, so it’s not this book’s fault, just a trend.

Another trend is what I call telliphobia, where the show-don’t-tell comes out so hard that I was terribly confused about the color powers and the whole magic system for about the first half of the book, since I was never straight-up informed of how the magic worked. Again, not just this book — it’s a trend in current publishing, but it gets a little tiring. All I want is to know what’s going on, you know? Is that too much to ask? (Disclaimer: I did eventually figure it out and do think the idea of the color powers is pretty cool. I just wanted it explained early on so I could get on with the story, instead of stumbling through tiny hints and getting distracted from the plot by trying to understand how things worked.)

But the last three things I complained about are general things I dislike and not the direct fault of this book, necessarily, so I suppose that’s not quite fair — sorry. (This reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said in On Stories. Something along the lines of how he didn’t like detective novels, so if he reviewed one it would be rubbish criticism, since he’d be reviewing/disliking the KIND of book it is, not the actual work, which isn’t totally fair. I’m paraphrasing, but anyway.)

Back to characters. Sometimes I liked Thomas, but other times he really frustrated me. Never knowing who he should be rooting for or who *I* should be rooting for was kind of exhausting. Plus I got pretty mad at him near the end when spoilers happened and he just didn’t seem to CARE at all. UGH. So Thomas and I didn’t get along all the time, for those reasons and also how he was sometimes sort of petulant/unmanly. I can’t really explain it. But I did sometimes really like him or at least feel bad for him and want him to succeed! It’s . . . confusing. I did like Emma most of the time and what little we saw of Norwood and maybe some other people occasionally. But it did seem like nobody else was likable at all. And I could never decide how I felt about Guy Fawkes himself — I felt like he had loads more potential. I also put the book down for several months after, well . . . a spoiler. I’m just saying, if basically the only nice character dies on me, I’m going to be a little put out. *cough* Also, taking such a long break probably didn’t help the book hang together in my mind. 😛

I never rooted for either side of the Keepers/Igniters. They were both being jerks and I didn’t really care. And the allegorical side of things sort of confused my brain. Especially the White Light, which could have been a funny character but felt totally way off, if it was supposed to be what I think it was supposed to be — I was just way too weirded out by its self-centered flippancy. (At one point [page 247] it was like “I could have done that, you know. You just never asked,” but actually, um, no, excuse me, THOMAS DID ASK EARLIER, on page 196, and the White Light conveniently wasn’t listening or didn’t care or SOMETHING. I just. I can’t.) I could be toootally off, but if it was supposed to be an allegory of God it totally missed the mark — for me at least. So that was sort of depressing and I felt like, personally, maybe I would have enjoyed the book more if I didn’t feel like it was trying to do Christian allegory stuff in a weird way.

So yes. Dark, depressing. Felt let down by the historical fantasy element that I was looking forward to. Didn’t find the characters to be ones I could root for on the whole. And in general some of it just . . . didn’t work for me. I feel like there were a couple of other things I didn’t care for, and don’t want to get into now. But essentially I read for enjoyment and this one didn’t hit the mark for me. I simply couldn’t enjoy myself and it wasn’t fun and honestly it totally stressed me out. But I think that’s just me?

Things I did enjoy!

  • The cover is still one of my FAVORITES.
  • The writing was gorgeous and everything was vivid.
  • It was very unique and interesting and exciting.
  • I did like a couple of the characters! Norland and Emma and Thomas sometimes. 😛
  • Emma and Thomas together were precious and squishable.
  • And it was pretty awesome when they saved the day from . . . well . . . something. Near the end but not at the end. No spoilers.
  • The color magic system was really neat once I figured it out.
  • At least it wasn’t a TOTAL tragedy and (aside from all the awfulness) there were one or two good outcomes, so yay!

Overall, the things I did like weren’t enough to override the things I didn’t enjoy, so this one was a bit of a disappointment for me. Personally. I really wanted to like it! (Plus, the author is the SWEETEST HUMAN on her Instagram so it makes me sad I didn’t love this book, though naturally I still love her as a person! And I do have hopes for trying more books from this author.)

So that’s the story of how I accidentally didn’t love FAWKES. My apologies.


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers


About Fawkes

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.

Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, June 26, 2018


Links

Find the book on: Goodreads • Thomas Nelson • Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Author Website


Thanks for reading! 🙂 (Please don’t hate me. XD)

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#WIPobsessed & Middle-earth Day!

G’day, my Roadlings!

Today there are two exciting things going on!

MIDDLE-EARTH DAY

March 25th has been dubbed Middle-earth Day and Tolkien Reading Day, in celebration of the day the Ring was destroyed. (It’s also more or less New Year’s Day due to that, as decreed by Aragorn, so . . . let’s brush up some new New-Year’s-Resolutions, shall we?)

Here’s a huzzah for all things Lord of the Rings and Tolkien!

(I’ll be celebrating by smiling over the two Tolkien books I’ve read so far this year and crying over how I haven’t been keeping up with my History of Middle-earth book-per-month personal challenge. 😛 *cough*)

Anyway, I had to mention because I’ll never not celebrate a Middle-earthean holiday! 😉

CALLING ALL WRITERS

The other thing is actually a three-day-long thing:

#WIPobsessed, an online writers’ retreat hosted by Liv K. Fisher!

It runs March 25-27, and the idea is to pick a goal and work on some writing during these three days, and share your progress and updates with the #WIPobsessed hashtag on whichever social media you prefer!

(Here’s the info on Liv’s Instagram, and on her blog.)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been far too busy all month to do much of anything remotely writing-related and it’s been devastating. So even though Camp NaNo is around the corner, I thought this would be the perfect excuse to push me into at least dipping my toe back into the writing waters. I can make time on three days to write, right?

Since I’m also terribly busy this week, and my saner half (sorry, my saner 3/8ths) says I have no business even thinking about writing, I’m going to set a low but hopefully achievable goal of one hour per day for a total of 3 hours of writing. Maybe that will add up to 3K words. We can hope!

I’m setting a secondary goal, if I pass the first, of finishing writing KW2 during #WIPobsessed (which I calculate, or rather hope, has about 5K left).

So there!

I’m announcing this which means I have to work toward it and at least try to set aside this time, even during an insane week, to do a little writing.

I hereby give myself permission to write for an hour each day for three days. Because that’s the only way writing is going to happen.

(Isn’t it dreadful it has to come to this? XD)

And besides, it’ll be good practice for Camp NaNo starting in exactly one week. 😉 (Please tell me I’m not the only one who is TERRIBLY PLEASED that April is starting on a Monday! XD)

SO WHO’S WITH ME? Why don’t you commit to writing even ten minutes or 100 words per day for the next three days? Join in the glorious swirling of creativity/mutual support!

It’s not like it’s a month-long challenge like NaNo. Just three days. Because every day counts!

I’m not sure how much I’ll be sharing or where, during these three days, but hopefully at least an update or two over on my Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

Go forth and join in, and get #WIPobsessed! May the words be ever in your favor!

Snippets + Snow + Superheroes: Feb. Ishness!

Oh, hi! It seems to be March.

. . .

Yeah, no clue how that happened.

Anyway, for once I have an Ishness concerning the month, so let’s see what I was up to in February, shall we?

WRITING

I unfortunately still seem to be in a huge writing slump, which I’ve been stuck in since NaNo ended . . . But I’ve also been very busy, so oh well.

I did manage to scribble an odd thousand words this last month, still limping along with KW2 and trying to finish, and random Sky Voyages series snippets.

Speaking of which, I’ve been doing some plotting for the sequel to The Siren and the Skyship, so that’s fun. 😀 I’ll chat about that in another post.

So yep, not a lot going on in the writing arena. Essentially, I’m busy, Tare is stalling (or I’m stalling him; honestly not sure which right now), and Keller of S&S2 is all “Well, if no one else is going to then I may as well take center stage HI!”

March looks exhaustingly busy so we’ll see what writing or lack thereof occurs. But I may have to take Drastic Measures if writing doesn’t happen soon.

SNIPPETS

Oh, hey! I haven’t shared any snippets in awhile. 😀 So here, have a few.

“Stay out of my head,” Tare snarled.

[spoiler redacted]’s eyes were cold in his carven face. “Make me.

***

(This snippet is actually from book 3 but I’m not supposed to be there yet. XD)

Rook sighed. “We all make mistakes. Both of us have done things we can’t take back, but we can’t run forever.”

“Maybe you can’t. I’ll do what I need to do. I betrayed everything I believed in.”

“So did I,” Rook said harshly. “You can’t even begin to know—” He broke off.

***

(I’m enjoying Meridian interacting with Teague’s brother Ivan. XD)

“When you get out, tell Teague to take Lulin and get out of here.”

I snorted. “He won’t do it.”

“Why not? He’d be an idiot not to.”

“Because he cares about you, you great lump!”

Ivan gave a little humorless bark of laughter. “You don’t know anything.”

“I know more than you two do! And you care about him too—admit it.”

Ivan mutinously tilted his nose off toward a corner. “No. Nothing of the sort.”

“Honestly!” I threw up my hands. “You are impossible. Both of you!”

READING

(In reverse order, from my Goodreads Reading Challenge)

So, I love how I’ve got these sweeping gorgeous covers with somber tones and then suddenly . . . Fortunately, the Milk. XD

Anyway, these were all varying levels of fun! (Except for The Gilded Wolves which Disappointed Me. I gave it one star. *shifty eyes*)

My absolute favorite was Beneath the Haunting Sea — gorgeous! I first met it pitched as The Silmarillion meets Jane Austen and just . . . yep. It took me a little while to get into it and the beginning is super different than the rest, but once she got to the mysterious old house I was totally in! 😀

Smol (ish) reviews on Goodreads:

Speaking of reviews, here are a couple of reviews I shared on my book blog this last month, for books that make me happy! ^_^

I also lurk on Instagram a lot. XD

WATCHING

  • I finally saw The Incredibles! I know. I’m . . . a little late on that one. XD It was sooo much fun, and now I need to see the sequel.
  • Despicable Me 3 was okay; the second was the best. 😛
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas — Yep, finally saw this one too, despite the nonseasonalness of February. I vaguely suspect it was not historically accurate, but it was a lot of fun. Because writers. XD And A Christmas Carol. And yep.
  • Black Panther — I’m only centuries late on this one. XD Super enjoyable! (Though from all the hype I had expected more?) And yes, I liked his sis. 😛 Also, Bilbo and Gollum were great. XD
  • Antman and the Wasp — Also great fun! 😀

I also got to see a PLAY! Which was loads of fun. It was Peter and the Starcatcher (based on a book which I read ages ago and didn’t love due to its explaining-away-prequel-ness, but for some reason liked the play more). Aside from a few quibbles, I reeeally enjoyed it. 😀 Plays are just so much fun (this was only my second one ever!) and the actors did a fantastic job—particularly Peter’s, who was SO Peter-ish, and the villain, who was absolutely hilarious. XD

LISTENING

I was super happy to get back to listening to audiobooks. It’s a new thing I was trying and it’s working out SO splendidly. I’m so happy!

I finished listening to Scarlet by Marissa Meyer and had LOADS of fun—it’s like my daily half-hour TV show in my earbuds while I do exercising. There are parts of the book I don’t care for, naturally, but on the whole it was just so fun, and I quite enjoyed the narrator, and the snark and character stuff was gold. XD

I’m currently in withdrawal because I haven’t managed to get to the library for Cress so I’m missing Cinder and Thorne and everyone . . .

There has been a Suspicious Lack of Exercising ever since I ran out of Scarlet to listen to, which may be connected to the cold I caught at the same time, or may just be me missing my Lunar exercise buddies. ❤

***

I think there was also music consumed, but I don’t recall what any of it was. Probably more Tide Lines and definitely themesongs for my Siren and the Skyship sequel (which I really should introduce to y’all!).

LIFE

Life things included:

  • Going to a couple of writers workshops.
  • Starting a new schedule/routine which has been incredibly helpful for productivity and which I need to get back to. (As soon as I pick up Cress . . . *cough*)
  • Much copyediting/proofreading work has been keeping me busy and happy.
  • Caught a cold; yay. So lovely. At least it was minor?
  • A library sale also happened which makes up for the cold because BOOKS.
  • The weather has been INSANE, ranging from high-70s suitable for lounging in the grass and reading, to super-cold and we actually got SNOW. (Only a smidge and didn’t stick around very long but it was so awesome! And was in the same week as the super warm days. So. Yeah.) It can’t seem to make up its mind and is playing roller-coaster.

Snow and a snow-ish book! Which you should go read ASAP if you haven’t. ❤

MARCH PLANS

I have a lot of life projects piling up on me that I need to deal with so I’m currently panicking over here. *curls up in shock blanket* But hopefully I can still find time for reading and writing and blogging, since there are many of all such things I want to do. 😛

Still, there are also exciting things going on, what with it being my birthday month and especially with March Magics!

For those who don’t know, March Magics is a celebration, around the interwebs, of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. The theme this time is re-reading old favorites (yesss!) and there’s also a readalong for The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, both of which I plan to join in on. 😀

I’ll be doing a post on my book blog about March Magics and other Book Ishness, but I’m waiting on a trip to the library to hopefully pick up a couple of books before I share my TBR stacks . . . (Wee Free Men and Cress, wait for meeee.)

Meanwhile, for more info, check out the host’s blog and feel free to join in around social media with the hashtags #MarchMagics and #DWJMarch — it’s going to be so much fun!

***

Whew! So that’s what I’ve been up to.

How about you? And are you ready for it to be March or at least spring? Also, thoughts on the snippets and books and films? And do you “read” audiobooks?

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a magical March! (See what I did there? *cough*)