The infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605 is reworked with a fantasy twist.
At St. Peter’s Color School, Thomas Fawkes is desperate to pass his Color Test and access his magical powers. Afflicted by the Stone Plague and shunned by his peers, Thomas waits in vain for Guy Fawkes, his father, to arrive and pass on his powers. However, Fawkes senior sends word that he is not coming, and Thomas is expelled from school. He escapes to London, where he finds Guy and joins a plot to murder King James and several hundred parliamentarians in an England divided between persecuted Keepers (Catholics) and dominant Igniters (Protestants). Thomas’ love interest, Emma Areben, is an Igniter of African descent, and while there is some narrative around race and slavery, it lacks enough detail to offer major insights into the social structure and mores of the time. The book’s historical flair—most characters were real people—is muted by Brandes’ (A Time to Rise, 2016, etc.) melodramatic writing style and contrived dialogue. The result is an awkward mélange of modern teenage angst and excessively stylized faux historical dialect. Characters traipse through a series of shallow epiphanies, with little opportunity for real insight, and the treatment of space and movement is clumsy, leaving readers struggling to visualize important scenes.
Despite its allegorical promise and imaginative recasting, Fawkes’ execution leaves plenty to be desired. (author’s note, discussion questions) (Historical fantasy. 14-18)