Read by Ray Panthacki
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015
Christopher Rowe, is a lucky lad. Plucked from the orphanage for his intellectual potential, Christopher is apprenticed to the kindly apothecary, Master Benedict Blackthorn. Despite his lowly upbringing, relayed by narrator Ray Panthacki's hint of a Cockney accent, Christopher receives training in Latin, astronomy, ciphers, potions, and other tools of the apothecary's trade. In the midst of a suspicious atmosphere following great political upheaval, a mysterious cult of murderers arises. Christopher will need all his skills and more to decode a series of clues to a dangerous plot that threatens to upset the balance of world power. Panthacki clearly defines each of The Blackthorn Key's large cast of characters, creating distinctive voices that reflect their standing in British society. Christopher's best friend is Tom, an apprentice baker. Like Harry Potter and Ron, they are a memorable pair, and their dialogue sounds honest and warm. Whether in terror, danger, or mere horseplay, the listener feels the emotion in and between the characters. The only thing that slows the pace of adventure in this gripping mystery is the occasional reading of lengthy ciphers. Print readers may well try their hand at decoding them, but for listeners, they're primarily a drag on the action. The setting is as rich as the plot in this mid-17th century adventure brought to life by veteran actor Ray Panthacki.
My review copy was provided by AudioFile Magazine. My review of The Blackthorn Key for AudioFile Magazine (along with an audio excerpt) appears here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/107274/]