The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“Tell no one what I’ve given you.”
Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.
But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.
I picked this up after seeing the book’s name crop up on a few posts by Joey @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts, completely unknowing of what this book was about other than alchemy (and explosions) in the 1600’s.
Let me start this off by saying, flat out, that I am usually not a fan of protagonists in First Person narratives. Normally, I hate being stuck inside one person’s head, slaved to their innermost thoughts and reactions, mostly because this tends to make me hate a character I otherwise would have felt neutral about. In this case, I didn’t hate Christopher. But I also didn’t particularly like him. A lot of what he did and how he reacted felt rather… well, stupid.
This might be because he’s a fourteen-year-old boy who’s grieving over one of the only people who’s ever been nice to him. Or it could be because he’s a fourteen-year-old boy. Having never been either of those things, I can’t say.
Thankfully, that didn’t ruin the book for me.
What made me struggle with reading this book, aside from questioning almost everything Christopher did, was the pacing. Sometimes it was very on point, making me flip pages quickly to see whodunnit and what the secrets were. And then sometimes it dragged, specifically in the middle third/second quarter of the book. I put it down for hours at a time without thinking about the mysteries. That’s not what you want in a book whose plot revolves around a couple of key mysteries.
Overall, I felt like the characters were believable, especially for the time period (1600’s London, reign of King Charles II). It was just Christopher’s decision-making process that made me question, but, again, grief-stricken teenage boy. They’re not known for being the smartest.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t love it. Three out of five stars. And no, I don’t think I’ll be picking up the sequel when it comes out, as I was satisfied with the ending.
This book fulfills my 1600-1699 slot for my When Are You Reading? Challenge.