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Author: Sands, Kevin
Book 1--In 1665 London, fourteen-year-old Christopher Rowe, apprentice to an apothecary, and his best friend, Tom, try to uncover the truth behind a mysterious cult, following a trail of puzzles, codes, pranks, and danger toward an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart.
Blackthorn Key, Bk. 1
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.60
Points: 10.0 Quiz: 176195
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 3.50
Points: 17.0 Quiz: 66543
Common Core Standards
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Integration of Knowledge & Ideas
Kirkus Reviews (+) (07/15/15)
School Library Journal (+) (08/01/15)
Booklist (+) (09/15/15)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/12/15)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 08/01/2015 Gr 4–6—An auspicious debut middle grade novel. Set in the 1600s, the story revolves around Christopher Rowe, the apprentice to a Master Apothecary. After losing his master, Christopher begins to unravel a series of complex codes that his master had, unbeknownst to Chris, been preparing him to solve all along. The more that the protagonist uncovers, the more he finds himself in danger, along with his loyal-to-a-fault best friend. The story is well paced, managing not only to keep readers hooked but also second guessing everything they think they know. Sands integrates a series of fun and interesting riddles and codes with chemistry concepts—no easy feat. The ending is dynamic and rewarding, with just the right blend of the fantastical and realistic. One of the true triumphs is the author's ability to create a character who feels accurate for the time period, while also displaying a modern sensibility that will keep readers engaged. The action does get intense but would still be appropriate for upper elementary school students. VERDICT This is an excellent story for readers who enjoy puzzles, action, and fantasy; keep an eye out for future installments.—Chad Lane, Easton Elementary, Wye Mills, MD - Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 09/15/2015 *Starred Review* For most orphans in seventeenth-century London, life is cruel and short. Christopher Rowe is one of the lucky few: chosen for an apprenticeship to a kind and brilliant apothecary, Benedict Blackthorn, Christopher is happily learning to solve complex intellectual puzzles and concoct everything from healing potions to gunpowder. But this idyll is not destined to last—someone is murdering the apothecaries of London. On Christopher’s fourteenth birthday, Blackthorn is killed, the shop ransacked, and suspicion falls on the young apprentice. Beleaguered and on the run, his only assistance the help of his friend Tom, Christopher must follow his master’s last instructions, written as a series of puzzles, to uncover the secret superweapon sought by his master’s murderers—and then decide what to do with it. Sands’ thrilling debut is full of twists, turns, and ingenious codes and riddles. At the same time, the book also brings Reformation England to life in exquisite period detail, exploring the roots of modern science, medicine, and explosives, and Christopher’s moral dilemma of what to do with a doomsday weapon is both touching and timeless. This is the kind of story that cuts across genres to appeal to a wide range of children. - Copyright 2015 Booklist.