The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Read by Ray Panthaki
Summary from Goodreads:
“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.
This book was pretty awesome. I was engaged from the start, when the two boys, Christopher and Tom were busy making a cannon, and I just couldn’t put it down. The writing was suburb and and the plot was smooth and kept your attention. Because I listened to the audiobook, I wasn’t able to engage in the puzzles as easily as if they were in front of me, but I still really enjoyed that part of the book as well.
Christopher and his Master Benedict Blackthorn have a wonderful relationship. More like a father and son. You could tell that Blackthorn cared deeply for Christopher even when he got into trouble. I loved Christopher, he was smart and very clever. He was also very brave and loyal not only to his master, but his friend Tom and to the apothecary guild. Christopher does not have an easy life and it only gets worse with the events in this story, but there is hope that he will pull through in the end. Tom is also a great character, and a steadfast friend who does not abandon Christopher even when his father beats him for helping Christopher.
The setting of 1600’s England was very believable. Mr. Sands does not gloss over some of the nastier things that were going on then, such as lack of sanitation and the diseases. Nor does he gloss over what happens to orphans, criminals and others that have misfortunes. I also liked the descriptions of the apothecary’s role in this society, both as a sort of doctor and pharmacist.
The mystery and the codes that Christopher must solve were captivating. I really wished at times that I could see them, rather than just listen to them, the only downfall to the audiobook. Tweens who enjoy codes and riddles will certainly enjoy this book.
Here is a video for the first book. So far there are two books in the series and a third set to be released this fall.