The Merry Monarch, King Charles II, is on the throne. Christopher, an orphan and destined for poverty and possibly crime, has had the great fortune to become the apprentice of the apothecary, Benedict Blackthorn. But though the country is at peace, something is amiss. A series of terrible murders targeting apothecaries is all the news. When Blackthorn, himself, is killed, Christopher is left to solve the mystery and avenge his master. And all he has to guide him is a message in code.
Exciting, full of action and introducing the reader to a very likeable protagonist, this is the first in what promises to be a series that will satisfy many young readers. The prose style is lively and accessible. The setting may be historical but the author errs on the side of contemporary language with the occasional more archaic term thrown in to maintain the setting. However, he avoids vocabulary that is over colloquial – though it is a shame he consistently uses the abbreviation ‘lab’ – a usage that did not appear until the nineteenth century. The plot moves at a pace and, for those who enjoy puzzles, there are coded clues to be deciphered.
This is a very welcome debut for young readers who are already fans of the Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford, or John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice.