Canadian author Kevin Sands has chosen to set his exciting debut children’s novel (suitable for ages 11+) in Restoration England over a period of around three weeks in the early summer of 1665. The main character, Christopher Rowe, an orphan, is an apprentice to apothecary Master Benedict, where he works hard and is fairly treated. A spate of murders, including a number of apothecaries, is being attributed to The Cult Of The Archangel who seem to be searching for something. Christopher and his friend, baker’s son Tom, are both very likeable characters and the time frame of this novel could suggest follow-ups in the time of the Great Plague and the Fire Of London- if this is so, then bring them on.
I very much enjoyed this junior adventure genre novel. The world of the apothecary would be very alien to a modern child but they would soon become fascinated and in no other crime book have I ever read of torture by oil of vitriol. The pace is good and the emphasis on action. You get some sense of Restoration London which is helped by a useful map in the front of the book. Perhaps the historical detail could have been a little richer, we could have been given more of the feel of everyday life, the sights, sounds and smells of the London streets but this is first and foremost an adventure novel and will satisfy many junior (and adult readers).
With a big company like Puffin behind it this book could become a sizeable success.
The Blackthorn Key is published by Puffin books in the UK on 8th September. Many thanks to Netgalley and Puffin for providing a copy for me to review