(4/5⭐️)“There has always been fear. There will always be fear. It's up to us to stand tall, even when the fear demands we bow to it.”
Caught in a plot to destroy Parliament and King James, Thomas Fawkes must learn to fight for what is right, even if it means making sacrifices. In the end, he must learn to see the correct path for himself, and chose between his father and the woman he loves. England is suffering through a silent war between Igniters and Keepers, each with their own set of ideals concerning color magic. Color magic is controlled by those who wear masks, those who have bonded with a specific color. Meanwhile, a dangerous Stone Plague is spreading through England. Thomas Fawkes is no stranger to the plague; he has been living with the plague in secret for nearly a year. When his father, the famous Guy Fawkes, learns of his plague, he distances himself from Thomas. This destroys all hope of Thomas getting his own color mask. He is left plagued and helpless, with his only skill being the use of his sword. Thomas is angry. He confronts his father over his abandonment. His father informs him of a secret plot and offers Thomas the chance to get his mask when the plot is carried out. Thomas is desperate for a mask, and willing to take part for this reason. However, when Thomas learns that destroying King James and Parliament will also eliminate the Stone Plague for good, he signs himself over to the Plotters wholeheartedly.
This story is an alternative history that takes place in the 1600s during King Jame’s reign. The main historical differences are that color magic exists, that people who possess color magic wear masks to control it, and the two parties in existence, Keepers and Igniters, are a parallel to the Wigs and Tories in Parliament. I really liked the alternative retelling of Guy Fawkes’s role, and how it was woven into a slight fantasy-like setting. Overall, it was a quick read and I found myself on the edge of my seat rapidly turning pages. I loved the shorter chapters, the obvious character arc Thomas takes, the alternative history, and the moral questions addressed in the story.
Technically speaking, this book was done very well. It’s structure and plot were perfectly executed, the characters all had a good deal of depth, especially Thomas and Emma. There were a few ideas that I struggled with early on, which is why I docked a full star in my rating. The biggest ask was that I needed to believe that power came from the masks people wore, and that many people wore these masks at all times out in public. How the power worked with the mask was not explained in great detail. In fact, the entire magic system, the language to perform commands, etc. was not really discussed in detail, making the world building feel a little incomplete. With the masks, I felt this was a little unrealistic in terms of world building. The masks don’t allow one to eat unless one passes food beneath the mask, so for someone like Emma or Guy, who refuse to remove masks in public, this becomes a difficult task. People can’t see what other people look like because the mask covers their full face. This just felt a little unrealistic to imagine a world like this. I couldn’t see it working very well. Finally, the voice of White Light, the force responsible for magic, seemed a little juvenile in its manner of speaking. I would have expected this ancient power to sound a little more archaic.
White Light is the sentient power behind the magical system. The parallels drawn between White Light and religion were interesting. The trope was done well. The majority of the character growth came from Thomas’s interactions and relationship with White Light. This was ultimately the backbone and drove the plot.
While I’m not sure this book makes my re-read list, it was very enjoyable. I’m happier for having read it, and I got a lot out of it. Plus, the cover is gorgeous and I’m always a sucker for a beautiful cover. Fawkes is a must for anyone who likes historical alternatives to the real world, with a dash of fantasy and magic.