The Blackthorn Key- Kevin Sands

Set in London, 1665, this is a story full of mystery, murder, puzzles and potions! I really enjoyed it!

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 . . .

Christopher is a lively, mischievous teenager, who has been apprenticed to the apothecary, Benedict Blackthorn. When his master falls victim to the Cult of the Archangel, Christopher shows his true strength of character, courage, loyalty and intelligence as he solves puzzles and cracks codes. 

This would be a great book to use either as a read aloud, a guided reading text or a book for further investigation with a Year 6 class. Quite apart from developing the love of reading by presenting children with a great, pacey story, there are many opportunities for developing reading skills- predicting, exploring character, developing plot, opportunities for discussion, reading with expression... There are many historical details to explore, not least the marvellous- and often disgusting- array of potions available at the time! A discussion guide for the book is available from the publisher.

The Blackthorn Key also offers many writing possibilities, particularly for the more able writer. Both fiction and non-fiction opportunities arise throughout the book and the quality of writing lends itself as a model for improving the children's own. The book ends with a note from the author about the spelling of the time and the different calendars in use which could also be used as the starting point further investigation. 

Although there are some very bloodthirsty passages in the story, there are also plenty of humorous moments. Knowing their class, individual teachers would be able to decide how this text might best be used in their setting. 

Please get in touch if you would like to share ideas for how to use this book with a class.

Sent by publisher for review.