Wednesday 26 August 2015

The Blackthorn Key - Book Review

The Blackthorn Key - Book Review
Kevin Stands
MG Historical
Book #1 in The Blackthorn Series
UK Publisher: Puffin

London 1655. Fourteen-year-old Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to master apothecary Benedict Blackthorn. In Blackthorn’s shop, Christopher learns the delicate secrets of transforming simple ingredients into powerful medicines, potions and weapons. His beloved master guides him with a firm, steady hand - instilling him with confidence and independence that prove increasingly vital as Christopher learns of a mysterious cult preying on the most learned men in London.

The murders are growing closer and closer to home and soon Christopher is torn from the shop with only a page of cryptic clues from his master and the unambiguous warning: Tell no one!

Helped by his best friend, Tom, Christopher must decipher his master’s clues, following a trail of deceit towards an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart. 


A fantastic and brilliant MG read! Christopher’s character charmed me from the start with his curious nature, a nature that always seems to get both him and his best friend into trouble. This book is a really great start to what promises to be a very enjoyable new series.

Apprenticed to a master apothecary, Christopher spends his days learning the delicate art of brewing medicines, mixing potions and experimenting with his masters more powerful and dangerous formulas. But when a cult begins killing off other apothecaries throughout London, it is only a matter of time before they find their way to Christopher’s door.

Now accused of a crime he didn't commit, Christopher’s learning is really put to the test. Using his skills to hide himself within the streets of London, he has only the help of his best friend and a page of cryptic clues to help him prove his innocence. 

But can he crack the clues and follow the trail  his master left for him before its too late? Yet as each piece of the puzzle falls into place, Christopher finds himself in the centre of more trouble, as clue by clue, he uncovers a secret that could change the course of the future. For the power to wield death is now in Christopher's hands…

I really enjoyed this story. Christopher is a fun and resourceful character who faced trial after trial with every chapter. I’m curious to learn more about his past, something that I hope will be explored more in the next book, however the beauty with this first book was that with every new catastrophe, Christopher’s future looked more and more uncertain. It is a story that will be enjoyed by both boys and girls alike.
The plot is fast paced and full of historical fact and things of interest - I love learning when it doesn't feel like learning - and I think the author did well in keeping true to the time period. Also the book held plenty of mystery. With indecipherable clues, secret societies, hidden passages and bodies turning up left right and centre, this books certainly keeps you on your toes.

My only criticism was the ending. While I enjoyed it, and certainly didn't see it coming, I was a little confused over how some parts came to be. But maybe its just me not connecting all the dots… However everything came to a satisfying conclusion and I will most definitely be reading the next book. 

Overall a gripping adventure that will leave you thirsting for more, I give The Blackthorn Key 4 stars!

Monday 10 August 2015

The Wolf Wilder - Book Review

The Wolf Wilder - Book Review
Kathrine Rundell
MG Historical
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books


Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora’s mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans.

When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.


I really enjoyed this book. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and overall the author moved me with her beautiful writing and storytelling. This is one of the most emotional and profound MG books I have read in a long time. It is a spell-binding read!

Twelve-year-old Feo has grown up in the wild’s of Russia. With just her mother and the wolves they seek to ‘un-tame’ for company, Feo is fierce and strong with a great sense of loyalty and an even greater sense of the world of snow and ice that surrounds her. But when the Tsar’s military come calling, her world changes forever. 

When her mother is taken captive and the wolves she loves become the targets of the army, Feo sets out on a journey that will change all of Russia. Determined to rescue her mother, she gathers her pack of wolves and heads for St.Petersburg. But the commander of the army has a debt to settle with Feo, and now like a dark shadow, he stalks her footsteps, promising retribution for the injury she gave him. 

In this heart wrenching tale, Feo will experience love, loss and friendship, and learn the true meaning of being brave and standing up for your own beliefs. The Wolf Wilder is a book that will remain with you long after you turn the last page!

The characters are all very well written. Feo is brave and knows how to survive the in the wild, yet when it comes to interacting with other humans she is socially naive and often unsure of herself. Friendship with creatures other than wolves is a new experience for her and her awkwardness is truly adorable.

Illya is another great character. A young, run away solider who aspires to be a ballet dancer, he is just as naive of the wolves as Feo is of people. Yet watching him slowly build their trust and gain courage from Feo was a lovely thing to see. Also I hope boys would be inspired by his character, and learn that its ok to pursue the dreams you want to regardless of what others say and think.

The villain of course also played a huge role. Scary with just a hint of madness, I liked how his end was brought about by the hands (and paws) of those he had hurt the most. A truly despicable character!

In terms of plot, I though the book read well. Although I got the impression that the book was aimed at older readers in the beginning, younger readers at the end, while the middle could easily have been a mix of the two. Although saying that, I thought the middle of the story flagged a little, but never enough to have me stop reading it.

As for the wolves, they were probably the most interesting of all. Each with distinct personalities, the book shows the dynamics of the pack and how they were treated by the world around them. From its historical angle, the book is really interesting and I enjoyed the backstories of the wolves immensely.

The ending was probably one of my favourite parts. So wonderfully worded that I couldn't help but tear up.

Overall, a heart stopping but beautifully woven tale that you will always remember. Just keep a box of tissues handy! 4 stars!