The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Recently I have been reviewing a lot of picture and girl oriented books and this week I decided to change it up a little and read a book that was targeted a little more at boys. The Blackthorn Key is about potions, puzzles and murder in Medieval London and is an action adventure mystery that will certainly grip the imagination of male readers. For girls who love the mix of history and adventure this book might also be interesting, but the lack of a strong female character may put some off.
There is a murderer about in London and he is killing apothecaries. This is not good for Christopher Rowe, apprentice to Apothecary Blackthorn. Soon he and is best friend Tom are caught up in a murder mystery and they must follow the clues to solve the riddles to keep themselves safe. The book is action packed and fast paced. The dialogue between the two main characters will appeal to boys, as will the inclusion of a lot of potions and chemistry. The fact that it is set in a very different time adds a whole different dimension to the book. Set after the fall of Cromwell a level of political intrigue adds to the mystery and danger and provides some key plot elements.
Promotional material says that those who love the Percy Jackson books will love this story, and I believe that to be true. However, as already stated, the lack of a strong female character may put off some female Percy Jackson followers. I would also be wary about letting some of the younger Percy Jackson followers read this book as some of the deaths are quite brutal and as they are set in a real historic context rather than a make believe world they appear more graphic. There is also a level of religious mysticism that could also be quite scary if the reader is not mature enough to understand that this was based on beliefs at the time and is in no way real. Although the suggested age range is 10-14 I am considering whether or not to have a talk with my nearly 10 year old Percy Jackson fan to clarify a few things before he starts on this book as I would like him to enjoy it as much as I did.