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


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

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


19 thoughts on “Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (Review)

  1. I did NOT like this one, either. Pretty much not at all. I didn’t even finish it (got to almost halfway), and just couldn’t anymore. Nothing made sense, Thomas was just a spoiled brat and not a hero, and the alternate timeline was SO bizarre, I couldn’t follow it. And since I already knew about Guy Fawkes Day before I read this book, the way the author butchered the *actual* history just made me mad. (I mean, Thomas Fawkes didn’t even EXIST in real life, and Guy Fawkes was thought to be around 30 at the time of the gunpowder plot, so it would be physically *impossible* for him to have a teenage son by then, and I just wanted to scream with how bad it all was.) And indeed, like you said, if you’re inserting an alternate history *to begin with*, what’s the point of using real figures and actual outcomes?? (Especially if you’re not going to get even THAT right??!?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I might not have finished but it was a review book, so. *shrug* Ohhh, good points about the history and things. I was literally wondering if people who’ve lived in England would take issue with it. XD At least it wasn’t just me! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I personally enjoyed Fawkes, but I understand and respect your feelings, of course. 🙂 It’s funny… I don’t normally like darker books either, but for whatever reason this one worked for me? Though, admittedly I listened to it on audio and that seems to help me handle darker stories since I’m listening in broad daylight instead of right before bed when I’m going to be more sensitive because nobody wants to go to sleep feeling sad or upset or worried the story will give you bad dreams, you know? That’s just me. 😉 The author herself said in one of her videos that Fawkes seems to be a love it or hate it book and I’ve got some friends who loved and some hated it, so it would seem she was right. Some books are just like that. I understand your disappointment that you didn’t like when so many others did, though, and I agree that the author is the sweetest cinnamon roll of a person, which makes you want to like her writing even more. But as the saying goes, you can make all the people happy sometimes, and you can make some people happy all the time, but you can’t make all the people happy all the time. ‘Tis life. Anyway, I’m rambling so I’ll stop now. XD Thanks for sharing your honest feelings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Beth! Oh, I TOTALLY feel that, because I sometimes run across a dark book that I have no idea why I love it but I DO so at least I’m not the only one. 😛 I’m glad you were able to like this one! ^_^ And oh, what a good point about audiobooks! I’m listening to the Lunar Chronicles right now and I am LOVING them but I wonder if I would as much if I was reading them. XD (Ugh, yes, reading a super dark or sad or depressing book right before bed is the WORST. -_- When I finished this one I should have gone to bed but I was so sad I just couldn’t so I stayed up another couple of hours reading a book that made me happy. :P) It’s definitely true that some books are a love it or hate it kind of deal! And yes, the author is SO NICE awk! Yep, can’t make everyone happy, sadly. I’m just usually one of the people who is loving on the thing that others dislike, so it’s weird for me. XD I’m soo not used to writing negative reviews. :-/ I usually love books! *sniffles* Aww, I cherish your rambling! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts, love! ❤


    • Glad you were able to enjoy it! But oh good, I’m not alone in my points. XD Oh my goodness, RIGHT?? I did that too — at first thinking the White Light might be evil — so I was terribly confused? O_O Thank you for chiming in! ❤


  3. Thanks for this review! I’ve been so curious about this one, and I’ll probably still read it at some point… but I definitely read the blurb and figured it was something akin to DWJ’s “Witch Week” (in tone/subject matter, obviously a different story) and obviously from your review it is VERY NOT THAT. So that’s good to know, because that would have been too disappointing to bear if I found out in the middle of reading. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome! Ohhhhh. No. It’s not like Witch Week. o.o I kinda forgot about the Guy Fawkes aspect of that one — obviously I need to re-read! But yes, noooothing like it, so at least you won’t be disappointed on that account. XD I hope you enjoy it if you do end up reading! 🙂 (Man, now I need to go re-read all the Chrestomancis!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. LOVED your review! Even though I thought this book was really good (I mean the WRITING STYLE *drooools*), I definitely agree it had lots of problems! It was so dark. I’m fine with dark books IF they’re balanced with at least a little bit of fun? This one was basically just gritty from page one to the end. And, as we’ve discussed before, the White Light stuff was portrayed so strangely.

    AND THE TELLIPHOBIA. Goodness, yes! I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one totally confused by the magic system at first. I LOVED it, but I think it could have been even cooler if, ya know, it was EXPLAINED. And maybe brought out more? It felt more historical fiction than fantasy, and obviously I wanted the FANTASY aspect the most. xD Buuut that’s just a personal thing. Hehe. Still, a little explanation could have gone a long way!

    So yes, I enjoyed it a lot, but I think some tweaks could have made it even better. But hey, on the shallower side, it’s worth it just to have that beautiful cover on our shelves. ;D

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m glad you were able to enjoy the book despite said problems, though! It WAS very gritty and dark, yes, and just odd sometimes.

      Yes, the magic was cool but still confusing! It did feel more historical than fantasy and I agree I would have loved it the other way. XD

      YES. The cover is so so gorgeous! 😀 Thanks for your sweet comment — sorry I had to dislike this one!


  5. Oooooh, interesting opinion! I haven’t read the book yet, it’s still sitting on my shelf…whoops. XD I’m curious to see how I’ll like it! I haven’t read anything by Nadine Brandes before, so it should be interesting… O.O

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, yesss. Oh, I so relate to things sitting on the shelf! XD Sooo much to read. I hadn’t read anything by her before either! Hopefully you’ll enjoy this one when you get to it, but it just . . . didn’t work for me. :-/


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  7. Late to the party as usual, but this is your most recent post so maybe it’s excusable. I haven’t read this one, but I know Nadine is a very gifted writer. Historical fantasy isn’t something I especially look out for, though, so not sure if I’ll ever get around to this one.

    But yes,*telliphobia* is something you see a lot of. And thank you for standing up for good old fashioned explanations. It’s bad if you do it all the time, but sometimes things are just too hard to get through showing, especially in fantasy. I think I probably have been guilty of telliphobia a few times myself.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your review. It’s hard to write negative ones. We want all the books to be wonderful, don’t we? At least the ones we read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m late to my own party! Writing a ton during Camp NaNoWriMo sort of stole my blogging time. 😛 Even though this one didn’t click with me, I agree Nadine is an excellent writer!

      Thanks for your thoughts about telliphobia, and I’m glad you agree! Yes, there can be too many explanations, and there can also be too few. It’s really hard to hit a balance!

      I’m so glad you liked my review — thank you so much! I was so nervous about posting it. It IS terribly hard to write negative reviews. YES, I always want the books to be wonderful! 😀 If I pick it to read, it usually means I think I’ll like it, so that makes it doubly disappointing . . . but they can’t all be perfect, I suppose! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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