Written by Nadine Brandes
Published by Thomas Nelson (Harper Collins)
Publication date: 10th July 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
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. 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.
“Do you understand what I’m asking, Thomas?”
His fingers bored into the muscles of my shoulders.
And at last, I did. My father was asking if I wanted to stop the plague. He was asking me to join the cause. To these I could answer yes!
But there was another side. He was also asking me to be part of a plot to kill the king. I’d most certainly be hung for treason if I were caught. It was a lot to think about.
Still . . . doing this might stop the plague. I’d be cured— or at least not dead. Then I’d have my mask. I looked at Father’s mask. Did he want me to join?
“The decision is yours alone to make, Thomas.”
He released my shoulder. Mine alone . . . a man’s decision. I wanted to be healed. I wanted England to be healed. I wanted to be part of something great. I breathed deep through my nose. No matter my answer, there was no going back. I was committing to either treason or cowardice. I’d been a coward once already that day. No longer. I clasped Father’s shoulder with the firmest grip I could muster.
First impressions: Gorgeous cover, isn’t it? It gave me Venetian Carnevale vibes and would definitely be a cover that I would pick up in a bookshop for that reason. I recently read Black Powder by Ally Sherrick, a middle-grade re-imagining of the Gunpowder Plot and find this historical period fascinating so I was really excited to pick this up.
We start the story with our protagonist, Thomas, son of the soon-to-be infamous Guy Fawkes. He is about to graduate from his school and choose or be chosen by his ‘colour’ of magic.
I found this idea intriguing, with each colour representing especial power in one particular area of magic e.g. brown=earth, blue=water, red=blood, etc.
In this story, the Keepers believe that one should choose and use only one colour of magic, whilst the Igniters believe that using white light means you can utilise each of the colours as needed. At first, I found this system a little confusing, particularly as ‘white light’ seems to have a mind and voice of its own.
As the story continued I began to understand the system better but there were still aspects of it left unexplained. To be ‘claimed’ by a colour of magic, each student must bond to a mask which takes on the colour of their dominant magic. This mask must be created by a family member and is usually passed on from parent to child.
Our story begins when Thomas’s father fails to turn up at his graduation, meaning he must leave without the ability to call on colour magic at all. Guy has given up on his son after hearing that he is infected by the Stone Plague, the illness that took his wife.
Thomas decides to hide the stigmatised plague and travel to London to demand his mask, believing that strong enough colour magic could cure his illness before it spreads any further.
When he arrives, he discovers that his father is part of a plot to change the world as they know it…
I thought this was a fascinating and creative alternative history and I loved the way the author’s notes at the back revealed some of the real-life inspiration behind characters and events. It seems that mankind doesn’t need much of an excuse to take sides and start fighting each other, and in this book the opposing political stances are reflected in the use of magic.
Read my interview with the author, Nadine Brandes to find out more!
“You’re not ready.”
Anger closed my throat. He didn’t even know me— nor was he bothering to try. He asked me not to meddle with White Light, yet he wouldn’t give me my color power or a mask. Did he not realize he was the only one who could?
If the Gunpowder Plot was exposed, Father could be captured and killed. I’d never have a chance to try to heal my plague , nor have any profession higher than a caddy. I would die. My chest heaved. The anger reached a peak where it transformed into a silent iron, encasing my heart and chilling my tone.
“What must I do to be ready?”
“You need to commit, Thomas.”
Father tossed his half-eaten pasty back onto the table and lay down again.
“You can’t ride both sides.”
“I am part of the plot,” I said. What more did he want?
“But it is not yet your plot.” He crossed his hands over his chest.
“You are too curious about the Igniters.”
“I just want to know the truth.”
“I’ve given it to you.”
I shook my head , though I suspected his eyes were closed.
“You’ve given me your truth. I have to find it for myself for it to become mine. And curiosity is the first step.”
What I liked: The colour magic – this was creative!, the historical setting – it is a fascinating time to set a story, the storyline with Anna, Thomas’s relationship development with his father and my personal favourite in historical fiction, the historically-accurate tidbits which are often more interesting and stranger than you could imagine
Even better if: I would have liked more explanation about the colour magic and how they’re used. Can anyone learn to use them or is it in certain bloodlines? What do they study at school if they get access to magic on graduation? How can they use their power before getting a mask? It says that colour powers can be unpredictable so do graduating pupils have to serve an apprenticeship or practise period? The details for why the Keepers and Igniters are at odds also seem muddled – the Keepers want to protect white light yet won’t listen to it, whereas Igniters listen and use it, yet are seen as those in the wrong. Cover niggle, but the masks described in the text are full face, sometimes even covering the neck too.
How you could use it in your classroom: This would be a great text to read alongside a historical study of the period, particularly if you can pull out the real-life events and characters who inspired those in the story and analyse what has changed for the sake of this story. It would also be great to spark a discussion about equality and power, especially with Thomas’s quest to get his mask and the storyline with Anna and her struggles.
(Thank you to the publisher for my e-review copy and to The FFBC for letting me be part of the blog tour!)
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Thanks for reading!