Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Assassin's Curse (Blackthorn Key #3)

34211260Sands, Kevin. The Assassin's Curse (Blackthorn Key #3)
September 5th 2017 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Christopher, Tom and Sally are back, and they have the King Charles' attention because of all of their work with the plague and various intrigue in The Blackthorn Key and Mark of the Plague. When Christopher manages to thwart an attempt to poison the king's wine, it is soon discovered that the real target is the king's beloved sister, Minette. When she returns to France, the king sends the children to protect her in the way they protected him. Christopher travels under the name of the warden's grandson, Christopher Ashcombe, Baron of Chillingham. Tom poses as his servant, which puts some stress on their friendship! Sally is included so that she can infiltrate the women's quarters. They are sent to France where the assassin wastes no time in trying to kill people with a wasps' nest. Christopher realizes that the assassin is after the treasure of the Knights Templar, and figures that if he can find it first, he will be able to identify the threat. After a gentleman, Simon, accuses him of trying to poison the queen with an asp, he must divulge some of his secrets; luckily, Simon is the nephew of Marin, who was a very great friend of Christopher's master, Benedict Blakckthorn. Marin is suffering from dementia, but does help Christopher's quest by providing a poem of clues to the treasure. These are never easy to figure out, but Christopher tries to remember the lessons from his master, and with the help of Sally and Tom, does an impressive job of figuring them out. However, the assassin is hot on their trail. Even if they find the treasure, will they be able to keep it?
Strengths: This is yet another impressive mystery that reminded me a lot of several historical mysteries for adults that I have read, especially Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody mysteries. The clues are impressively tied to historical events, and there are even pictures of paintings and various maps that bolster the feeling of reality. There are lots of codes that Christopher must figure out, sometimes under supreme duress, but they don't drag down the narrative, which is fast-paced and full of suspense and danger. The nascent romance between Christopher and Sally is charming, and Tom is always good for a laugh or a description of food. Highly enjoyable, and even though this is historical fiction and not fantasy, fantasy readers can be fooled easily into picking it up, due to the cover art and the length of the books.
Weaknesses: I'm not a huge fan of puzzle solving worked into narratives, but that's just me.
What I really think: It seems like there may be more books in the series; I'd prefer stand alone titles. After three or four books, my students tend to give up on most series. There are some exceptions, but these aren't normally historical fiction.

Morpurgo, Michael. Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz
September 12th 2017 by HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks
Copy provided by the publisher

Tiny Toto, whose father traveled with Dorothy from Kansas to Oz, recounts some of the tales his father has told him while snuggled up with the other puppies. The tornado, meeting the Munchkins and traveling to see the Wizard and acquiring the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion are all covered. After meeting the wizard, the group sets out to get the broom of the Wicked Witch, and eventually gets help from the Winkies. They meet with the wizard, and eventually return to Kansas.
Strengths: Morpurgo is a wonderful writer, so the story flows beautifully and will be received much better by today's young readers than the original, to which it remains true. The full-color illustrations are lovely and remind me of Quentin Blake's work. Very nicely produced book that would make a great gift.
Weaknesses: The only twist on the original is that we see the story through Toto's eyes. The events are all the same. It's been a while since I've read Baum's work, but this did seem to be based off the book rather than the movie.
What I really think: The book was published in 1900. The famous movie was produced in 1939. Is this a classic work of children's literature that has been important for generations of children? Absolutely. Is it important to this generation of children? Not so much. It's lovely book, and perhaps younger children might be interested, but I don't see it doing well in my school.

1 comment:

  1. You're not alone in your feelings on classics we loved while growing up. It was so hard for me to take The Little House on the Prairie series off the shelf but I had to do it. They weren't circulating and nothing I did could get them in kid's hands. Thanks for your review.