Summary from UK publisher’s website:
Follow the clues. Crack the code. Stay alive.
Potions, puzzles and the occasional explosion are all in a day's work for young apothecary Christopher Rowe. Murder is another matter.
It's a dangerous time to be the apprentice of Benedict Blackthorn. A wave of mysterious murders has sent shockwaves through London, and soon Christopher finds himself on the run. His only allies are his best friend, Tom, courageous Molly, and a loyal feathered friend, Bridget. His only clues are a coded message about his master's most dangerous project, and a cryptic warning - 'Tell no one!'
The race is on for Christopher: crack the code and uncover its secret, or become the next victim . . .
Published by Puffin in Sept. 2015
320 pages in paperback (read on Kindle via NetGalley)
Cover artist uncredited, map inside by David Atkinson
I have great fondness for historical novels – as any frequent reader will know. The Blackthorn Key appealed not least because it’s set in a period I see less often than the Tudor era or World War II – the 17th Century.
The novel is told from the first person point of view of Christopher Rowe – an apothecary’s apprentice. Expect some funny moments, and a realistic yet touching friendship, but watch out for mystery and murder. It is also occasionally enjoyably gruesome, if you like that sort of thing.
Many readers will enjoy the codes, ciphers and puzzles integral to the story, and the early science and technology, mixed in with plenty of action. It may use largely accurate history, but is certainly never dull.
There are enough shocks, surprises and moments of violence to keep it moving at a brisk pace. Both politics and intrigue appear without slowing the adventure.
I do appreciate a book that doesn’t patronise younger readers about such things whilst keeping the story going. Likewise, the range of adult characters is credible and interesting. I just wish more female characters had an active role – I have hopes for Book II ‘Mark of the Plague’.
This first book is fully resolved – just as well as the second won’t be out till September – but there’s plenty of wriggle room for more adventures with the characters we’ve grown to love – or hate.
Recommended for bright, independent readers who enjoy imagining what the past was like, puzzles and explosions!
K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed and breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You'd be welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter