River Heights Book Review

The books you'll want to read.


the blackthorn keyThe Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
September 1, 2015

London, 1665. In the past four months, six men have been tortured and killed, three of them apothecaries. Master Benedict Blackthorn has assured his 14-year-old apprentice, Christopher Rowe, that there’s no gang of assassins roaming the streets and that nobody is hunting apothecaries, but Christopher has overheard conversations between Blackthorn and his colleagues that suggest otherwise. And when Blackthorn returns to the shop late one night, burned, bloody, and stubbornly silent about how he got that way, it becomes clear to Christopher that not only does his master know more than he’s letting on, but that the danger they face is very real, indeed.

I often find historical fiction to be dull and ponderous, but THE BLACKTHORN KEY is neither. On the contrary, Kevin Sands’ debut novel is a rollicking tale of alchemy, adventure, skullduggery, and derring-do. Sands’ dialogue is sharp, his prose is irreverent, and while heartbreak and danger abound, the book contains plenty of humor, as well. The story manages to be of the era without fetishizing it, and the period details Sands includes add texture and authenticity without slowing the pace or muddying the plot.

While I love me a good fantastical adventure, I adore that Christopher doesn’t save the day with magic — he does so using chemistry and cryptography. THE BLACKTHORN KEY educates while it entertains. And not only will you walk away from this book knowing the recipe for saltpeter and how to decode a substitution cipher, but you will have learned some important life lessons, as well. Through Christopher, Sands teaches readers that knowledge is power, that with great power comes great responsibility, and that the measure of a person has nothing to do with his or her station in life.


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This entry was posted on August 19, 2015 by in Reviews, YA and tagged , , , , .
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