Review: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (InfoSoup)

Christopher was taken from the orphanage where he grew up to become an apprentice to Master Benedict, an apothecary in 17th century London. Christopher loved working in the workshop and learning about the different capabilities of the various ingredients stored there. He created medicines that helped heal various afflictions, but he also got himself into trouble too. All it took was one homemade cannon, a best friend, and a stuffed bear. But all is not entirely good in Christopher’s world. There is someone murdering apothecaries but torturing them first. Christopher soon finds himself in the middle of the worst possible danger and left with only a trail of cyphers and clues to help him figure out who to trust.

Sands manages to create a rip-roaring adventure story and yet keep it true to a historical mystery set in the 17th century. Readers are immersed in the hierarchies of the apothecary guild, the complex political world, and the desperation of being an orphan and having no place to live in London. There are unlikely heroes, crafty booksellers, kind madmen, and plenty of villains. The book catapults readers into the story, leaving them breathless with the vaudeville humor of the story, gasping as the pace gets even faster, and holding on by their fingernails as the story twists and turns.

Christopher is a great character. He is smart as can be, solving cyphers and puzzles as well as figuring his way out of impossible situations. He is also brave, enduring real danger for the sake of what he believes in and what his master taught him. Add to that a humble nature that makes him a good friend and a tendency to find trouble. Other characters are compelling too, from his best friend who has real depth to his character to the villains who have complicated reasons for what they do. It’s a book that reads as a puzzle that readers must decipher.

It’s a wild delight of a novel that will have young readers captivated thanks to its chemical mix of science and historical fiction. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Aladdin Books.

2015 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2015 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards have been announced. There are awards for books in both French and English. Below I have included only the English titles. The full list can be seen here.

 

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

Any Questions? A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison

Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay

A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison by Margriet Ruurs

From Vimy to Victory: Canada's Fight to the Finish in World War I Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress The Night Gardener

From Vimy to Victory: Canada’s Fight to the Finish in World War I by Hugh Brewster

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

 

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Dolphin SOS From There to Here

Dolphin SOS by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki, illustrated by Julie Flett

From There to Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James

Hope Springs Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Hope Springs by Eric Walters, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

The Most Magnificent Thing Nancy Knows

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Nancy Knows by Cybèle Young

 

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction

From Vimy to Victory: Canada's Fight to the Finish in World War I If...: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

From Vimy to Victory: Canada’s Fight to the Finish in World War I by Hugh Brewster

If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams

 Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking

Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors: A National History by Larry Loyie with Wayne K. Spear and Constance Brissenden

Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking by Sarah Elton, illustrated by Jeff Kulak

Why We Live Where We Live

Why We Live Where We Live by Kira Vermond, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin

 

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People

Arrow Through the Axes Dance of the Banished The Gospel Truth

Arrow through the Axes by Patrick Bowman

Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

The Gospel Truth by Caroline Pignat

Underground Soldier Unspeakable

Underground Soldier by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat

 

John Spray Mystery Award

About That Night Dead Man's Switch Julian

About That Night by Norah McClintock

Dead Man’s Switch by Sigmund Brouwer

Julian by William Bell

The Show To End All Shows: Book 2 Of Master Melville's Medicine Show The Voice inside My Head

The Show to End All Shows by Cary Fagan

The Voice Inside My Head by S. J. Laidlaw

 

Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Boundless The Nethergrim The Night Gardener

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends, #1) The Story of Owen (The Story of Owen #1)

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston

 

Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

The Art of Getting Stared At Blues for Zoey The Bodies We Wear

The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston

Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston

The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

The Gospel Truth What We Hide

The Gospel Truth by Caroline Pignat

What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn