Rating: High Four
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of TombQuest, anything Stuart Gibbs, Eragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and Rump.
Synopsis (from Amazon):
“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.
Then the book pulled me in and threatened to never let go. From then on, I was rapt. The story suddenly heightened considerably in suspense, and I feel like Christopher's originally poor narration greatly improved to be incredibly engaging. The other characters were also all spot-on, as was the mystery. The action was thrilling, and I loved the historical references. Kevin Sands did a wonderful job creating an exciting mystery that constantly kept me second-guessing my original suspicions. The whole "apothecary's apprentice" aspect was also very interesting - something I think other MG readers will like, too. And although the ending did get quite a bit gory, I think the Blackthorn Key is the perfect book for readers 8-12. In fact, I think anyone older than that wouldn't enjoy it nearly as much, since, although this book is written in a very complex, sophisticated way, it is still very much aimed towards middle grade readers. Overall, a fantastic, engaging, thrilling debut that really takes off about a third of the way in.