Review: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

The Blackthorn Key

From Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster:

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.

Christopher Rowe, apprentice to Master Apothecary Benedict Blackthorn, is learning all his master’s secrets—like how to decipher complex codes and puzzles, and how to transform simple ingredients into powerful medicines, potions, and weapons.

Christopher’s beloved master guides him with a firm, steady hand—a confidence even more vital as Christopher learns of a mysterious cult preying on London’s apothecaries. The murders grow closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop…until Christopher is torn from his home with only a cryptic message and a warning from his master: “Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Aided by his best friend, Tom, Christopher must race to decipher his master’s message—and follow a trail of deceit toward an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart.

In 17th century London, England, a young apothecary’s apprentice named Christopher Rowe must follow clues left by his master to uncover the truth behind the Cult of the Archangel, a group that has been murdering apothecaries across the city, before he, too, winds up dead.

Kevin Sands mixes code-breaking, history, dark deeds and a whole lot of mischief together to great effect in The Blackthorn Key. His style reminds me a great deal of Eoin Colfer. It’s funny, smart and full of surprises. I was laughing and cringing from start to finish.

Christopher is a wonderful protagonist. An orphan and an apprentice, he literally has nothing to his name. Everything in his life can be taken away in an instant from the Apothecaries Guild. But he’s resourceful and he uses his brain to get himself out of more than one pickle. He’s also kind and loyal. And brave—to the point of stupidity sometimes. Think Harry Potter with science instead of magic.

I’m curious to know where this series is going since this book could easily stand on its own. Guess I’ll have to pick up book two to find out, not that that’s a hardship.

The Blackthorn Key is alchemical genius, sure to appeal to fans of Eoin Colfer’s works and Michael Scott’s The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel series. I think young boys will especially enjoy the humor and gore.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5 hearts)

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