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The Blackthorn Key (Blackthorn Key, Book 1)

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about the book

blackthorn key



A string of murders has been committed in 1665 in London, England.  The victims were members of the Apothecary’s Guild.  Fourteen-year-old Christopher Rowe, apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn, has loved creating potions, medicines, and weapons as he learns the apothecary craft. The recent pattern of murders, however, concerns him. Christopher is worried for the safety his kind-hearted master.

After an assault on Master Blackthorn, Christopher believes his master is the next target for the Cult of the Archangels, the suspects behind the attacks. Christopher and his best friend Tom decide to work together, collecting clues in an attempt to solve the mystery and save Blackthorn.

Christopher wisely uses his training as he struggles through puzzles, codes, and cryptic clues.  He discovers the Archangels’ motive for murder:  a dangerous secret concealed by those in the Apothecary’s Guild. Will Christopher and Tom act quickly enough to solve the mystery and save Master Blackthorn?

teachingbooks-bookabout the author

kevin sands

Kevin Sands graduated from college after earning degrees in math and science. From there, he became a teacher, researcher, business consultant, professional poker player, and author.  Even though he was an avid reader growing up, Kevin wasn’t interested in writing until he was older. Kevin started writing screenplays, but didn’t take it seriously enough.  It wasn’t until he buckled down to pen a novel that he realized he loved writing.

The Blackthorn Key is his first novel, which has since been followed up with a sequel entitled Mark of the Plague, starring his protagonist, Christopher Rowe. Kevin researched his first book for weeks. Kevin wanted to learn more about the politics and history of London in the 1660s, a time of change and intrigue.  He also wanted to learn more about the lives and work of apothecaries. He found their abilities to create and use potions, medicines, poisons, and secret codes inspiring.

Kevin meticulously constructs his novels.  As a beginner writer, though, he would dive in and begin a story, realizing part-way through that his ideas were going nowhere. He often dumped the work into the trash.  When he started mapping out his ideas and creating incredibly detailed notes, his work improved. Now he envisions each scene, charts out connections, and uses those notes to create his first draft.  Thanks to the planning he did before writing, Blackthorn Key was about 95% the same book from its first draft to the final, published work!

Author website
Author interview: Literary Rambles
Book trailer: The Blackthorn Key

Also by Kevin Sands:
Mark of the Plague (Blackthorn Key, Book 2). Aladdin. September 2016.

teachingbooks-authorread more!



The Apothecary (Book 1) by Maile Meloy
The 1950s U.S. Committee on Un-American Activities has singled-out Janie’s family for questionable allegiances. The family moves to London, where Janie meets Benjamin, whose father is a top-secret scientist. When Ben’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Ben realize it may be because he is an apothecary who has made some strange inventions.





Mark of the Plague (Blackthorn Key, Book 2) by Kevin Sands
Christopher, apprentice to Blackthorn, abruptly inherits an apothecary shop upon his master’s death. Legally, he can’t sell any of the potions or mixtures until a new master arrives, but how is he to survive in the meantime? The Black Death ravages London and food is scarce. Christopher soon learns Blackthorn left him a treasure, concealed behind clues in order to protect him.




The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1) by John Flanagan
Will hopes to become a knight and be assigned to the Battleschool. Instead, he’s apprenticed to the mysterious Ranger, Halt. He soon realizes the danger the rangers face when he is called upon to battle the bearlike assassins sent by the evil Morgarath. The assassins’ plan?: Kill Halt and take over the kingdom.