Pages

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Review: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands


Potions, puzzles and the occasional explosion are all in a day's work for young apothecary Christopher Rowe. Murder is another matter.

It's a dangerous time to be the apprentice of Benedict Blackthorn. A wave of mysterious murders has sent shockwaves through London, and soon Christopher finds himself on the run. His only allies are his best friend, Tom, courageous Molly, and a loyal feathered friend, Bridget. His only clues are a coded message about his master's most dangerous project, and a cryptic warning - 'Tell no one!'

The race is on for Christopher: crack the code and uncover its secret, or become the next victim . . .






Back before, and in the early days of, this blog I enjoyed reading a fair amount of adult historical mystery/thriller fiction. With the Tudor, Civil War and Restoration periods being of particular interest to me I loved CJ Sansom's Shardlake series, S.J. Parris' Giordano Bruno books, James Forrester's Clarenceaux trilogy and Susanna Gregory's Thomas Cahloner series. Sadly, these days I have a lot less time for adult books, but that does mean that when a historical mystery thriller for younger readers arrives in the post it can suddenly find itself promoted straight to the top of my TBR pile. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands is one such book.

It is thoroughly refreshing to read a straight-up historical mystery story for middle grade readers, that does not have any kind of fantasy element to it. There is no magic, no dragons (or other fantasy creatures), no element of the supernatural, and the book is all the better for it. Although a fan of the period in which it is set, I am certainly no expert so would be unlikely to spot any historical inaccuracies. However, whether accurate or not (and I have a feeling that author Kevin Sands has been very thorough with his research), the setting of Restoration London, and its sights, sounds and smells, rang very true in my mind as I raced through the brilliant story. 

The Blackthorn Key is set in 1665, five years after the restoration of the monarchy in England, and in a period where there is still a great deal of mistrust. People have to be careful what they say for fear that a neighbour or even a family member might report them for treason. It is an era rife with political machinations and intrigue that lends itself perfectly as the setting for a historical mystery story. It is also an era when the role of the apothecary enjoyed a higher status in the eyes of the people, and they were very much the medical practitioners of choice for many. Some of these were probably little more than quacks and conmen, but many considered themselves serious scientists and healers, striving to make leaps forward in medical science.

Christopher Rowe, the hero of The Blackthorn Key, is apprenticed to one such apothecary. His master, Benedict Blackthorn, is kind and generous, traits that were rarely shown by a master to his apprentice in those times. This is all the more fortunate for Christopher, who is an overly inquisitive and adventurous boy - two personality traits that do necessarily mix well when surrounded by chemicals that can be mixed together to create gunpowder and other destructive materials. However, when it appears that some kind of mysterious cult is killing off local apothecaries it is exactly these kind of traits that come in useful, and as the violence comes even closer to home Christopher finds himself tasked with solving a mystery that involves cracking codes, and hunting down the secret to a destructive material that could completely change the balance of power, not just in England but potentially across the whole of Europe.

Christopher is a fabulous character that all readers, young or old, will warm to immediately. The opening chapter, in which we are introduced to Christopher, is one of the best I have read for some time - it tells us everything we need to know about his personality, his relationship with his master and the work they do, and his best friend Tom, in a manner that is exciting and very funny. Its lightness of tone makes the moments darkness and sorrow that follow later in the story all the more heart wrenching, and the story all the more thrilling.

2015 is proving to be yet another golden year for outstanding middle grade fiction, and The Blackthorn Key is another of my favourite books of the year so far. The Blackthorn Key is perfect for lovers of mystery thrillers, and young readers will find the London of 1665 brought completely alive for them as they race through its back streets and alleyways with Christopher. This book was easily as thrilling, fascinating and well written as Sansom's Matthew Shardlake books, and I am overjoyed to discover that it is the first in a planned trilogy. Please can we have more mystery thrillers like this for middle grade and YA readers!

The Blackthorn Key is due to be published at the beginning of September by Puffin in the UK and by Simon and Schuster in the USA. My thanks go to those lovely people at Puffin/Penguin Random House for sending me a copy to review.


7 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Real And Urgent Spell Caster Reviews To Solve Your Relationship Problem Dr Trust..

      My name is Elena Deri. I am from Canada, I have great joy in me as i am writing this testimony about the great man called Dr. Trust When my lover left me i never taught that i will be able to get him back after all he has put me through, But i am so happy that after the interference of Dr. Trust i was able to get my lover back within 48hours. Are you going through a break-up or divorce? Do you need your Ex back fast? Don't cry anymore, contact Dr Trust powerful Love spell that work fast now!! I was hurt and heart broken when my lover breakup with me, and i could not know what next to do again, I love my lover so much but he was cheating on me with another woman and this makes him break up with me so that he can be able to get married to the other lady and this lady use witchcraft on my lover to make him hate me and our kids and this was so critical and uncalled-for. I went to Florida to see a friend and who was having the same problem with me but she latter got her husband back with the Same Dr. Trust. She told me that Dr Trust help with love spell in getting back lost lover back, and i decided to contact the same Dr Trust and he told me what is needed to be done for me to have my man back. To my surprise my lover really called me and told me that he miss me so much, Oh My God! i was so excited, and today i am happy with my man again and we are joyfully living together as one big family and i thank the powerful spell caster Dr .Trust for bringing back my man and i decided to share my story on the internet that Dr Trust is the best spell caster online who i will always pray to live long to help his children in the time of trouble, If you have any problem contact Dr Trust and i guarantee you that he will help you,Email him at:

      Email: Ultimatespellcast@gmail.com or Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com website: http://utimatespellcast.blogspot.com

      Call or Text him now: +1(317) 762-7416

      Delete








  2. The Blackthorn Key is set in 1665, five years after the restoration of the monarchy in England, and in a period where there is still a great deal of mistrust. People have to be careful what they say for fear that a neighbour or even a family member might report them for treason. It is an era rife with political machinations and intrigue that lends itself perfectly as the setting for a historical mystery story. It is also an era when the role of the apothecary enjoyed a higher status in the eyes of the people, and they were very much the medical practitioners of choice for many. Some of these were probably little more than quacks and conmen, but many considered themselves serious scientists and healers, striving to make leaps forward in medical science.

    Christopher Rowe, the hero of The Blackthorn Key, is apprenticed to one such apothecary. His master, Benedict Blackthorn, is kind and generous, traits that were rarely shown by a master to his apprentice in those times. This is all the more fortunate for Christopher, who is an overly inquisitive and adventurous boy - two personality traits that do necessarily mix well when surrounded by chemicals that can be mixed together to create gunpowder and other destructive materials. However, when it appears that some kind of mysterious cult is killing off local apothecaries it is exactly these kind of traits that come in useful, and as the violence comes even closer to home Christopher finds himself tasked with solving a mystery that involves cracking codes, and hunting down the secret to a destructive material that could completely change the balance of power, not just in England but potentially across the whole of Europe.

    Christopher is a fabulous character that all readers, young or old, will warm to immediately. The opening chapter, in which we are introduced to Christopher, is one of the best I have read for some time - it tells us everything we need to know about his personality, his relationship with his master and the work they do, and his best friend Tom, in a manner that is exciting and very funny. Its lightness of tone makes the moments darkness and sorrow that follow later in the story all the more heart wrenching, and the story all the more thrilling.

    2015 is proving to be yet another golden year for outstanding middle grade fiction, and The Blackthorn Key is another of my favourite books of the year so far. The Blackthorn Key is perfect for lovers of mystery thrillers, and young readers will find the London of 1665 brought completely alive for them as they race through its back streets and alleyways with Christopher. This book was easily as thrilling, fascinating and well written as Sansom's Matthew Shardlake books, and I am overjoyed to discover that it is the first in a planned trilogy. Please can we have more mystery thrillers like this for middle grade and YA readers!

    The Blackthorn Key is due to be published at the beginning of September by Puffin in the UK and by Simon and Schuster in the USA. My thanks go to those lovely people at Puffin/Penguin Random House for sending me a copy to review.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice review! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete


  4. How to Get an Ex Back
    My boyfriend broke up with me its been 4 days now. We have been dating sense he was 18 and I was 22. She has just know turned 21. We have been dating for 3 years and 2 and half months. Through the years we have had a really good relationship it was serious and we really wanted to be with each other forever. Of course we had are arguments but nothing too bad. I know that these past 3 months I had taken him for granted thinking he would always be there but was wrong. he told me he didn’t want to be in a relationship that he wanted to take time with himself. But he was still kissin me and hugging me and telling me that he will always love me and I hold a special place in her heart. I realized that right before he done this that I needed to get my act together but I guess was too late. I really love this boy there is something different about him he is the love of my life and I want us to have a better relationship then ever before and I wouldn’t ever take him for granted ever again I really do want to marry this boy and he wanted that too but idk how to get him back with out being clingy and desperate. Obviously he needs his space because he cheated on me and this time I really need help to bring him back and marry me, one day i was searching online and i saw a good testimony of how Dr Joy a real Africa spell caster help to restored back broken marriage, getting ex back, fix broken relationship. so i copy his email via??? joylovespell@gmail.com and told him all my problems so he ask me not to worry that my problem are solve that with 2 days, i will get him back which i believe in and put all my hope on and to my greatest notice, after the spell my boyfriend who broke up with me gave me a call to apology and feel so sorry for what he did so my dear ones that is how i got my boyfriend back with the help of Dr joy the real spell caster so also email him now on via joylovespell@gmail.com.you can also call him or add him on Whats-app: +2348100452479.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Real And Urgent Spell Caster Reviews To Solve Your Relationship Problem Dr Trust..

    My name is Elena Deri. I am from Canada, I have great joy in me as i am writing this testimony about the great man called Dr. Trust When my lover left me i never taught that i will be able to get him back after all he has put me through, But i am so happy that after the interference of Dr. Trust i was able to get my lover back within 48hours. Are you going through a break-up or divorce? Do you need your Ex back fast? Don't cry anymore, contact Dr Trust powerful Love spell that work fast now!! I was hurt and heart broken when my lover breakup with me, and i could not know what next to do again, I love my lover so much but he was cheating on me with another woman and this makes him break up with me so that he can be able to get married to the other lady and this lady use witchcraft on my lover to make him hate me and our kids and this was so critical and uncalled-for. I went to Florida to see a friend and who was having the same problem with me but she latter got her husband back with the Same Dr. Trust. She told me that Dr Trust help with love spell in getting back lost lover back, and i decided to contact the same Dr Trust and he told me what is needed to be done for me to have my man back. To my surprise my lover really called me and told me that he miss me so much, Oh My God! i was so excited, and today i am happy with my man again and we are joyfully living together as one big family and i thank the powerful spell caster Dr .Trust for bringing back my man and i decided to share my story on the internet that Dr Trust is the best spell caster online who i will always pray to live long to help his children in the time of trouble, If you have any problem contact Dr Trust and i guarantee you that he will help you,Email him at:

    Email: Ultimatespellcast@gmail.com or Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com website: http://utimatespellcast.blogspot.com

    Call or Text him now: +1(317) 762-7416

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was separated from my husband 2 years ago, my family told me to forget about him which I can't. Ever since then i have been running heather scepter looking for a solution to my problem because a woman has bewitched him, until i ran into this online testimony of Mrs Stacey who was helped to bring back her ex lover by this Dr in Africa (Dr Freedom), i immediately contacted him via his email (Freedomspellhome@gmail.com), to God be thy glory i did all he asked me to do and my husband came back to me after Dr Freedom used his Love spell on him at last this is a break through for everyone who has any issue with his or her relationship contact this great spell caster via his email Freedomspellhome@gmail.com or whasapp +2348106917688

    ReplyDelete