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)

Blood Ties Blog Tour & Review

bloodtiestourbanner

Today I’m excited to be part of the blog tour for Blood Ties by Hazel B. West, with a review and other good stuff — and an appropriately Irish post, what with Saint Patrick’s Day coming up this week and all… 😉

Follow the tour (and enter the giveaway for a copy of the book!) HERE. You don’t want to miss this! 🙂

Here’s a bit about the book and author, and then my review*! (Read on to the end of the post for a taste of the book with the excerpt Hazel’s sharing with us!)

*a.k.a. where I squeal about Ireland and warriors and fast cars and epicness and brothers and friendships and Faerie and all of the things

bloodtiescoverfront copy

Title: Blood Ties (The Modern Tales of Na Fianna #1)

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, Alternate History

Synopsis

In an Ireland that mixes high kings, faeries, and modern warriors who drive fast cars, Ciran, a descendant from the famous warrior Fionn Mac Cool, bands together with a company of young warriors from the legendary order of Na Fianna to go on a quest to recover their missing family members who were captured by the Goblins in a shaky peace between the two kingdoms. Ciran and his companions must figure out not only how they are going to rescue the prisoners, but how they are going to complete their mission without killing each other. Through trial and error, running battles, unexpected friendships, and daring escapes, Ciran and his company come face to face with the Goblin King himself in a final battle that will decide the fate of all involved and of Ireland itself.

The first book in a new series, Blood Ties takes the traditional Irish legends and puts a modern spin on them with a heavy helping of friendship and the love of family.

Find the Book

Createspace Paperback | Amazon Paperback | Kindle | Smashwords | Add it on Goodreads

About the Author

Hazel West lives in Purgatory, er, Florida, with her books and her hedgehog Horatio. When she’s not writing, she’s reading other people’s books, studying folklore, or binge-watching something on Netflix—drinking coffee is also a given.

You can find her online in these places:

Blog: http://hazelwest.blogspot.com

Writing blog: http://talesfromamodernbard.blogspot.com

Twitter GoodreadsYoutube | Pinterest

My Review

bloodtiescoverfront copyBlood Ties

by Hazel B. West

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for my honest review, and all opinions are my own.

5 stars

This book contains, among other things: awesome characters galore, brothers by blood and by bond, friendship, bickering (oh, the bickering!), quests, Irish warriors with fast cars and swords, a few fairies, a lot of goblins (in black leather, of course), a lot of epic fight scenes, muffins, and knitting; all wrapped up in a modern Ireland with an alternate history, keeping all of the awesomeness of medieval times, and one foot in modern times for all the cool things we have now, like cell phones and laptops and movies and cars.

I really don’t see why anyone would need any reasons beyond that to read it . . . but I shall continue, in any case, since I’ll take any excuse to fangirl over this delightful book. 😉

My two favorite things: the setting and the friendships.

It perfectly blends a modern Irish setting with medieval warrior clans and a dash of Faerie, which may sound like an odd mix, but it WORKS. I was simply in love with this world! Like… aside from the danger, can I just live there, please? I really enjoyed getting to learn more about the setting and how it all fit together. The whole thing came so alive for me! I don’t usually read much modern fiction, but I loved this — so even if you’re not one for a contemporary setting, this one’s still worth giving a try!

Just the idea of these Irish warriors, who are a mix of medieval and modern, descendants of Finn Mac Cool, still working for a High King of Ireland; and being part Fae as the hero and the other Fianna are, they have faster reflexes and more instincts; they’re basically like ninjas, only cooler and faster and Irish. (Our narrator, Ciran, even mentions that it’s been proven that ninjas can’t beat them. XD How cool is that?)

It’s so fun how the characters will one moment be in a motorbike/car chase with some goblins, the next having a sword fight, and the next be hanging out at home at their castle with a brother, eating ice cream and cheese balls and watching a movie late at night . . . and then off on an epic journey across the rolling green hills of Ireland, having to watch out for the tricks of the Fae. I just love it! The mix is a ton of fun.

The characters leapt off the page. They are all awesome and I am very fond of them! *hugs them all* They’re mostly teens (or early twenties) and a fabulous bunch. Their interactions and dialog and how they bounce off each other and fight and make friends is just wonderful. It’s the best.

Our hero Ciran, who is awesome and my favorite; his best friend Tierney (their relationship is the best!); Caitlin, a warrior maiden who is both maiden and warrior and not stuck up about it, and goodnatured, who I loved a ton; Deaglan, lady’s man and archer and always with perfect hair; Riordan the very calm (licensed!) Berserker who knits; and his flashy troublemaker little brother Keevan. Then of course there’s High King Eamon, who is simply fabulous; and his captain of the guard/best friend Killian — the antics of those two together, especially, simply had me in stitches with laughter. But all of them together were so great!

I loved the relationships in this book so much. Family is very strong, but also friendship. The main theme is one of brotherhood — whether they be sword brothers or brothers born. This best-friend buddies kind of story is one of my favorites, and for sheer amount of awesome bro-ness, it’s likely the best I’ve ever read. The love of family, brothers, friends, and what they’d all do for each other, while teasing and fighting a bit… I just LOVED it! ^_^

I’m not the biggest fan of books told in first person, so it’s a high compliment coming from me that I loved how this story was written, and the narrator, Ciran, is my favorite character of all. I just loved his dry witty way of putting things. Seeing the story through his eyes was awesome. I love his determination and how he tried his hardest and learned to be a leader. Just… Ciran! He’s great. 🙂

The book also has a more serious and darker side to it, with some deeper themes and emotions, touching on family, loyalty, betrayal, coming of age — it’s about a group of mostly teenage warriors, after all! The content is clean, although sensitive readers might want to know there’s mention of torture; and of course a bunch of fighting, because that’s a given with this sort of epic adventure. 😉 On that note, I have to make a special mention of the fight sequences — sword fights and otherwise — which were amazingly well written! I could see them all so well. The fight descriptions and the humorous bantering dialog attest to this author’s skill.

I’ll admit that from the way it started out, I expected it to have more emphasis on the modern aspect, like in a city… with roads and things; and on the specific friendship between the hero and his best friend, Tierney. But that relationship, while still present, fell somewhat in the background with the onset of several other (awesome) characters and all of their interactions, and once the story got underway, it was much more a medieval fantasy adventure quest type of thing (though the modern showed its head from time to time). But all of that is right up my alley, so although I expected something a little different, you will definitely not find me complaining. 😉

Do I have any complaints, then? Mainly that I wish it wasn’t over and need the next one!

Overall: I definitely recommend Blood Ties! I loved this book and just want to hug it, and/or go live there, and I’m excitedly awaiting the sequel! (It’s going to be from Eamon’s point of view and I could. not. be. more. excited. EEP! When is that releasing, again??) I can’t wait to return to this world! ❤

Excerpt From Blood Ties

There was a moment when I couldn’t quite believe the fact I was grappling on the brink of a waterfall just like in an overblown action movie, but yet there I was and Keevan wasn’t far behind, still facing off with the same Goblin he had been before, who was pressing him hard. I couldn’t see where Tierney and Caitlin were because I was a bit too busy for that at the moment, but hoped they were not in as precarious a position as I was or worse.

There was a sudden yell and, forgoing all training I had ever had, I looked over with concern to see Keevan slipping off his rock and falling down with the rushing water, the Goblin he had been fighting going with him.

I would have screamed for him, even knowing it wouldn’t have done anything, but I was suddenly slammed in the face by the hilt of my opponent’s sword. I teetered back on the precipice but gained my balance just before I received another strike that knocked the sword out of my wet hand. I kicked out at the Goblin, but he caught my leg and I knew then, with horror, that this was it. He grinned, knowing as well, and I flailed my arms as he pressed me back. The only thing I could do now was take him with me, but I didn’t even get that chance.

Have a nice swim, Finar,” the Goblin said with a jeer, before he let me go and I fell backwards.

It wouldn’t have been terrible, but for the fact that halfway down I slammed into the side of the cliff, smashing up my side, and by the time I hit the freezing water, well, I hardly remembered the impact enough to tell about it.

— Blood Ties by Hazel B. West

Giveaway

(Rafflecopters notoriously do not show up well on WordPress blogs, it seems, but here’s the link and you can also go to Hazel’s blog to find it. :))

a Rafflecopter giveaway