Hey, all! Today we’re here to review MARK OF THE PLAGUE by Kevin Sands, the action-packed sequel to THE BLACKTHORN KEY. We read and reviewed THE BLACKTHORN KEY last year, and really enjoyed it! Now the series continues with even more codes and riddles and fun things to uncover! Let’s get into the non-spoiler review–but first, here’s a synopsis off Goodreads, along with the book’s cover:
Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this follow-up to the Indie Next pick The Blackthorn Key, which was called a “spectacular debut” by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.
The Black Death has returned to London, spreading disease and fear through town. A mysterious prophet predicts the city’s ultimate doom—until an unknown apothecary arrives with a cure that actually works. Christopher’s Blackthorn shop is chosen to prepare the remedy. But when an assassin threatens the apothecary’s life, Christopher and his faithful friend Tom are back to hunting down the truth, risking their lives to untangle the heart of a dark conspiracy.
And as the sickness strikes close to home, the stakes are higher than ever before…
***Disclaimer: We received this book from Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacts our thoughts.
Sounds epic, right? Well, this book was definitely full of twists and turns, as promised. Let’s begin with the characters–starting with Christopher. Christopher’s a smart, intelligent kid, but it’s no secret to him that he’s struggling financially. Something I loved about this book was the aspect of adventure toward finding treasure; it gave the main character something to look forward to, something to guide him along as this dark plague began taking root in London.
Next up is Tom. Tom is the comic-relief of the series–and for good reason! He’s the perfect foil to Christopher, who wants to blow things up all day; meanwhile, Tom tries to stay away from the fire/booms/cannons/all-around-fun-but-unsafe stuff. Tom was definitely our favourite character, because he’s funny and witty and always has the best responses to all of Christopher’s explosive–literally–ideas.
As always, Bridget the pigeon and Sally were a plus. They also provided a bigger scope to the MC’s life, friends, and relationships.
The mystery element of the book was by far the best part–Christopher not only had to find a treasure, but work through understanding what these mysterious prophets, apothecaries, and assassins were hiding about the plague. I mean, everyone loves a good conspiracy, right?
A lot of the twists and turns had us gasping and wide-mouthed. Like, whoa! Christopher was able to decode a very tough riddle his Master had left him, all the while the plague was killing those around him–and the sickness was looming closer to him and his home.
The only thing that held us back from giving this book a full 5* was length. It was a bit too lengthy, strangely enough, though it’s an easy, quick read. Still, there was enough action and suspense at the end to tie things together and make for an intriguing read! Though this is an MG, we felt that certain things–perhaps it’s because it takes place in the 1600s–were slightly violent, but maybe that’s just our anachronistic perception, looking back on the text and the time it takes place in.
Overall, a solid, enjoyable installment in the BLACKTHORN KEY series. It’s the perfect gift for young readers, and even older(ish) ones like ourselves!
We rated this book a 4/5 stars.
Until next time,