Review & Book Trailer: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

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Title: The Blackthorn Key
Author: Kevin Sands
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 384
Source: ARC received at 4th Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada
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Overall: 5 STARS

Following a series of murders, an apothecary’s apprentice must solve puzzles and decipher codes in pursuit of a secret that could destroy the world in this suspenseful debut novel.

“Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.

But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.

In his stunning debut novel, Kevin Sands brings readers on a heart-stopping adventure rich with suspense, mystery, and unforgettable characters.

My Thoughts: 
Kevin Sands's The Blackthorn Key is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of the year. A thrilling page-turner and unforgettable murder mystery, The Blackthorn Key is filled with twists and turns (and an explosion or two!) to keep your heart constantly racing. Danger, mischief, humour, and a pigeon named Bridget—what's not to love about this middle grade debut? 

Set during the Restoration period in the 17th century, the year is 1665 and Charles II has been restored to his throne after years of exile in the Netherlands. But just as London gets caught up in the festivities of Oak Apple Day, a holiday celebrating the English monarchy's return, a mysterious cult known as the Cult of the Archangel emerges from the shadows and begins preying on the city's apothecaries.

The Cult of the Archangel is searching for something, and leaving a trail of mutilated bodies across London in their wake. With the help of his best friend and sidekick Tom, Christopher Rowe must quickly decode the cryptic clues left behind by Master Benedict before the Cult of the Archangel discovers the secret to giving them immeasurable power.

Life isn't easy for an orphan, but ever since Master Benedict accepted Christopher as his apprentice three years ago, he's been a given a home and hope for the future. Master Benedict has patiently taught him how to create remedies to help people and solve complex puzzles written in code so rival apothecaries can't steal their work. Christopher is not only clever and bright, but also mischievous and curious, giving him the perfect attributes for a boy training to become an apothecary just like his beloved master. 

Wildly entertaining and fraught with danger at every turn, Kevin Sands's The Blackthorn Key is a truly remarkable MG debut. The attention to historical detail brought the story to life, and I loved delving deeper into a world where alchemy, science, and religion are richly intertwined. Readers of all ages will surely love this book! I absolutely can't wait to see what misadventures await Christopher next in the sequel.


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