Author: Kevin Sands

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Aladdin)

Pub. date: Sept 8 2015

Following a series of murders, an apothecary’s apprentice must solve puzzles and decipher codes in pursuit of a secret that could destroy the world in this suspenseful debut novel.

Christopher Rowe, apprentice to Master Apothecary Benedict Blackthorn, is learning all his master’s secrets—like how to decipher complex codes and puzzles, and how to transform simple ingredients into powerful medicines, potions, and weapons.

Christopher’s beloved master guides him with a firm, steady hand—a confidence even more vital as Christopher learns of a mysterious cult preying on London’s apothecaries. The murders grow closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop…until Christopher is torn from his home with only a cryptic message and a warning from his master: “Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Aided by his best friend, Tom, Christopher must race to decipher his master’s message—and follow a trail of deceit toward an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart

My Thoughts:

*Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review or opinion*


The Blackthorn Key is an exciting new fantasy adventure novel, perfect for fans of Lisa McMann and Brandon Mull. Complete with lots of action, a remarkable main character, and story line that will leave readers begging for more, The Blackthorn Key is certain to please. I have a feeling that if I was younger, I would have been obsessed with this book and even now, I’m more than happy to give it 4 stars.

I was initially drawn to The Blackthorn Key because of two elements: magic and mystery. I love both of those things and I knew that the chances were high that I’d love this book. I was not disappointed! The Blackthorn Key has everything a middle grade reader could want: high stakes, secret conspiracies, and lots of action.

I loved Christopher Rowe as a character. He is working as the apprentice to an apothecary, Master Benedict, when suddenly apothecaries from all around London start being murdered. Christopher is clever and determined, as well as fiercely local to his friends. He was easy to root for as he tries to take down the mysterious murderer. At times, he is truly reckless and foolish, but I enjoyed reading about him anyways.

I really liked Christopher’s strong friendship with Tom, the baker’s son. I haven’t read nearly enough books featuring friendships recently (especially friendships between boys) so this aspect of The Blackthorn Key came as a breath of fresh air! They are both young and make foolish decisions, but are always there for each other and willing to have each other’s backs.

Usually, I’m able to predict much of what happens in middle grade novels, especially as I read more of them, and see certain twists used over and over again. I was worried that The Blackthorn Key would be like this as well, but thankfully the complete opposite happened. The Blackthorn Key was completely unpredictable! It is set in 1600s London, during a time of great political unrest. As Christopher tries to find the murderer, he encounters a lot of treachery and backstabbing along the way. Nothing is as it seems.

 This novel had a strong beginning. The author definitely knew what he was doing.  I was interested right away! I read this book in a day (and almost all in one sitting) because I was so hooked by the opening of The Blackthorn Key. The book started to drag a little during the middle, but it picked right back up again. The ending was great! I’m not sure if this is a series, but I’d definitely be interested in a sequel to The Blackthorn Key.

The Blackthorn Key was a fantastic middle grade debut with excellent writing, a charming premise, and fearless characters. I really enjoyed it, and can see this appealing to a lot of readers. The Blackthorn Key is a surefire hit!

1 Comment on {Review} The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

  1. Ellie @ Spellbound
    July 30, 2015 at 5:27 am (2 years ago)

    I’ll have to give this one a try. Any middle grade book that a teen found unpredictable is clearly a book I should read. Great review!
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