The Blackthorn Key

By Kevin Sands

1. Peter: The book follows an apothecaries' apprentice; Christopher. Apprenticed to Benedict Blackthorn. After a wave of mysterious murders in town, and the death of his own master... Christopher is left to solve and unveil the clues left by his master. With his only allies being his best friend Tom, Molly and his ever faithful pigeon Bridget. They aim to finish what his master began and stop it from getting into the wrong hands. Overall, the book is alright. It got a little bit tiring to read at times whereas in other parts you couldn't put it down. The story itself is really well planned... With links dotted around the novel to interlink the entire thing and make it make sense in the end. As to historical accuracy? It's pretty good and with basic understanding of surgery and medicine I was able to understand certain parts and references in the book. Would I recommend it? Maybe. I think it is perfect for readers like me who do not read many books and struggle to read longer novels. Its reasonably small size and peaks in action help its readability from a not so keep readers' point of view.

2. Sam: I was not a huge fan of this book on the whole and didn't finish it in the end by to start with I did enjoy the parts involving medicine during the time it was set as that is what I have been studying in GCSE history. I wasn't a fan because I felt the there wasn't enough going on to keep me interested.

3. Oliver: This is a very enjoyable book for a range of different audiences. It is about a series of murders which have taken place and one of the murders was that of an apprentice’s master. I really like this book in the way it tries to create tension and suspense. I never wanted to put this book down as it latches on to you from the very first words. It is a great mix of education and action packed entertainment.

The characters in this book are great they range from funny, creepy, intelligent and evil. I think the history in this book was outstanding and very educational. It teaches us about the way people use to try create new substances and medicines. I think the book is based around the 17th century were we didn’t have the knowledge of medicines that we have nowadays. I think the book is really good at keeping the reader wondering about what could possibly happen next.

This book definitely made me consider reading more books by Kevin sands. I have not yet read any other however in the near future I definitely will. Also before this book I was not a really big fan of the mystery or crime genre after I read this book I have completely changed my mind. I have recently purchased more mystery books as a result of this. I really like the use of foreboding. The author is really good at creating an eerie and negative atmosphere that sends shivers down your spine. I do have some complaints though. Most of the time it would be very mysterious but sometimes it would start to get a bit random and off topic. Such as in the beginning where two characters just randomly decide to build a cannon. Also I feel the blurb of the book gave too much away.

4. Kiran: This is a brilliant book about a mystery in 17th century London. It is about how an adventurous boy who likes to do strange this like building a canon. He lives with his master (who adopted him) and now is his apprentice, Christopher makes potions and medicine. Long story short he is on the run from murderers and has to solve clues to find out how to stop them.

This book is adventurous, has some bits of comedy and makes the reader feel scared. I never liked reading and I would never really just pick up a book and read but with this book I couldn’t stop. I highly recommend this book for boys in years 7, 8 and 9. The book is mainly for boys as the hero is a boy but there is some female characters that have a big role but slowly disappear. The book still has some unanswered questions and I hope to see a sequel. It left the reader in suspense.

If you haven’t read The Blackthorn Key you are missing out and should definitely read the novel and tell friends about it. My favourite thing about this book is that it is realistic with a real focus on the history.

5. Darcy: I really enjoyed the book and thought that it was a good way to spend time. I really liked when Christopher was solving the puzzle of how to open the secret door. I thought that the history was very realistic, especially the parts about the orphanage and the guilds. It didn’t make me want to look more into the time period it was set in because I have read a number of books on it already. I think that the author was very good and I would enjoy reading more novels by him, especially the next book in the Blackthorn series. I think that it had a very good plot and it had a lot of interesting vocabulary e.g. instead of book they were “Tombes”.

6. Richard: I found the book to be highly enjoyable and well written, with an intriguing story, and the characters to be well thought out, especially Master Blackthorn, who I found to be a very interesting and mysterious character. The historical aspect of the book seemed very well polished and I thought that it fitted into the time period nicely, and inspired me to look into the apothecaries guild in my free time. I will definitely be looking out for other books by Kevin Sands in the future, and would certainly recommend The Blackthorn Key to anyone who enjoys a good mystery book.

7. Maddie:  I enjoyed this book very much as it was very interesting. It grabbed my attention from the moment I started to read the book. My favourite character was Christopher because he was incredibly brace and tremendously intelligent, he also seemed loyal. My favourite scene from the book happened when Christopher and Tom were standing before the majestic doors in the tomb. It was fascinating because I was interested in how they managed to crack the code: I enjoyed this book emensely and the history of apothecaries was very riveting as I knew nothing about this subject previously. I would love to read more by this author. Overall a brilliant book!

8. Max: I really enjoyed this book. I found it had a very easy to read style but it isn’t just for children. It is very much for a fan of Percy Jackson. I think it had plenty of historical value as it was set in the industrial times of Britain. It was also historical correct in the things it told you e.g. when it gave you a recipe it was an actual recipe. I would certainly recommend this book as overall I enjoyed what I read and it was very much the style I like to read.

9. Rob: The story is written in the first person, somewhat like a diary but more detailed and formal. In The Blackthorn Key, the main character, Christopher the apprentice, has to solve many clues and codes to find out who has murdered his master. With his friend, Tom, he completes many of the puzzles, many of which are on the topic of apothecary. Christopher has many suspicions but the real criminal is not who he thinks.

I really enjoyed reading this book, despite it having a slow start. I like the fact that once the action begins, the storyline is very fast-moving and it keeps you interested throughout the story. The fact that the story is written in first person really helps the reader to understand what the characters are going through in a fixed point of view. It allowed me to empathise with Christopher and imagine what is what like for him.

The story is set in London in the 1600s. This teaches the reader about life in the 17th century and how different it is to today. The book taught me about apothecaries and how medicines were made in this time and the story involved parts of Latin. This point in history interests me as I like finding out about how medicines were produced and the different beliefs of health.

This book has left me keen to learn more about this period of time because the storyline is interesting due to the time it was set in. It has also led me to search about codes and Latin because it was used frequently throughout the book and it intrigued me.

I would recommend this book to people who are interested in codes and murder mysteries. However, some parts are slow so I would not recommend it to impatient people. Overall, I think The Blackthorn Key is a very exciting book and I would highly recommend it to a friend, family member or anyone interested in this period of history.

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