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Heather's September 2016 pick, 2 of 2
The Blackthorn Key, by Kevin Sands
Christopher is a quick and clever boy, raised from the torture of the orphanage into the apothecaries guild to become a young, trusted apprentice. He enjoys the tutelage of his kind Master, Benjamin Blackthorn and the trust instilled in him until it seems a cult starts targeting London’s Apothecaries loyal to the King. Tragedy strikes and Christopher is blamed. He must solve the riddle of his Master’s murder and find the killers before they find him and the dangerous secret that was entrusted to him.
This is a very well written middle grade novel. The action is fast paced and supported by swift, smart lessons in alchemy. The story evolves through a series of clues and puzzles that must be solved and each time the solutions never feel contrived or overly simplified for the young audience. Each plot twist helps drive the action forward to unlock the mystery, setting off a chain reaction that is clear and easy to follow. One of the most engaging aspects of the story is the rich details of the time period creating a great sense of atmosphere. It is so complete and full of historical facts that it will be a great introduction for young readers to historical fiction. I’m sure that Sherlock would be a great next step for the readers that want even more clever puzzle solving. Personally, my next step is grabbing book two and continuing the adventure.
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