Monday, 31 August 2015

Review: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

The Blackthorn Key
by Kevin Sands
Publisher: Aladdin, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover, Ebook, Audio CD
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Purchase: [Amazon] [Chapters/Indigo]
Add it to your Goodreads bookshelf
“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.

*Note: Review might contain spoilers pertaining to events in the book*

"Let's build a cannon," I said.

On July 25th the ladies of Book Blog Ontario and I were honored to have debut author Kevin Sands spend the afternoon with us and talk about books. The Blackthorn Key, a debut middle grade title with a promising synopsis, was a novel that intrigued me from the moment I first came across it. A young apothecary's apprentice that is suddenly thrust into a world of cryptic puzzle solving, mysterious murders, and secret cults, sounded like the book for me and I was beyond thrilled to have a copy of my own.

"Tell no one what I've given you."

Christopher Rowe is an orphan living in 1665 England, where the world is difficult for all, especially for those who find themselves orphaned. Luckily, Christopher is given an apprenticeship under Master Benedict Blackthorn, a man who is responsible for creating powerful potions and weapons. With his friend Tom, Christopher often finds himself causing a bit of trouble, whether it's attempting (and succeeding) in deciphering his master's recipes or pelting those who dare walk the streets without wearing a sprig of oak on Oak Apple Day with rotten eggs.

I absolutely adored Christopher and Tom! Both characters worked wonderfully together to ensnare me and pull me further into the depths of the mysterious phenomena in The Blackthorn Key. A book not to be judged simply by it's genre, The Blackthorn Key positively caught me off guard. With cryptic hidden messages, charts, Latin translations, and shady character appearances, I found myself on the hunt with Christopher and Tom to puzzle solve and hunt down for a murderer. I don't come across middle grade titles I would recommend to an older audience very often, but The Blackthorn Key is one I highly recommend for readers of all ages, and one I hope many young readers will have the opportunity to read in the upcoming school year.

Fans of cryptic messages, mysteries, and surprise twists will want to pick up The Blackthorn Key and add it to their personal collection. Although a middle grade title, The Blackthorn Key is perfect for readers of all ages and will have you wishing for more from Kevin Sands. A phenomenal debut!

Rating: 4 / 5 Cupcakes. Recommended

Also, Kevin Sands plans to make an appearance at Indigo Yonge & Eglinton in Toronto on September 28th at 7:00PM. Kevin will be joined by authors Lisa McMann, Kevin Sylvester and Kenneth Oppel. More information about the event can be found here.

This title was provided to the blogger by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No payment was received/accepted in exchange for this review/post. The blogger requests that this review not be reposted or edited without the blogger's permission. The thoughts and words expressed in this review/post are explicitly the blogger's.


  1. Great review Wendy. I can't wait to read this!

  2. Excellent review from you Wendy
    I can't say I recall hearing about The Blackthorn Key prior to your review. But it sounds very interesting for a younger readers novel.

    1. I hope you have a chance to pick it up, it's great!

  3. Another book for the Amazon checkout hah!