Well, that was quick! I started reading this book six days ago and burned straight through it! (It was even a paper book, so you know I was into it...) The plot, both personal and historical, was great and I loved the characters. It was borderline "romance," but didn't get super graphic (which, as you know, I prefer) -- it was really more about relationships and treason and adventure and plot twists and, of course, gunpowder (hence the "firemaster" part of the title).
As I mentioned at the outset, I've never been one for the "historical fiction" genre but I am now thinking this genre might be perfect for me. I'm terrible with history, but I like a good story. For many folks, history is a good enough story on its own, but I think I need to sink my teeth into some relate-able (and probably fictional) characters to get hooked.
There's a brief "history behind the story" portion in the back of the book which supported the idea that I may have learned a little nugget while reading this book. (Yay!) I particularly enjoyed the author's book recommendations, as she mentions a book she read as a child and says, "I understood for the first time that you could learn real history from riveting, colourful and gently erotic fiction." I'm not sure I'd even call this book "gently erotic" -- more like "barely erotic," (which, again, is okay by me) but I think that the author did a good job of writing a book that's riveting and colorful and also teaches some real history.
The book centered on Guy Fawkes' unsuccessful plan to blow up Parliament in 1605, which is known as the "Gunpowder Plot" (wikipedia link there, so read with discretion). Some of the historical plot twists were difficult for me to follow, but Dickason did a great job of keeping me in the loop, so I never got completely lost. I'm very proud of myself for predicting a personal plot twist for the fictional characters involved -- I almost never "see it coming," but I did this time and was so pleased when I was right! Heh.
One part of the book that I struggled with was the fact that these people were fighting over the right to practice Catholicism. It's hard for me to relate to a situation where it would be treasonous to have a certain religious belief. I know it happens -- and still happens today! -- but it's still hard for me to imagine. Also, I don't think I'd hold up long if someone told me to deny my faith in order to live. Yeeeah... I wouldn't make a very good martyr.
Meanwhile, since I've finished this book so quickly, that means I've got time to read the latest Sookie before it's time to fire up July's book. The general consensus is that it stinks, but I'm still excited!