Illustrated by Kristina Kister
For ages 9+
When Usborne got in touch with some very exciting teaser emails about a middle grade sequel called ‘The Secret of the Blood-Red Key’, then actually asking me to be a ‘keeper of the key’… enabling me to some inside info in the months running up to publication day… I was 100% ALL-IN!! (Even got my special badge to prove it!! Although an enamel pin...). They mailed over an advance copy of the beautifully bound final hardback edition, which upon removal of the dust jacket, a beautiful key with a secret message is revealed to the owner. It is at this point that I must congratulate Kristina Kister, an incredibly talented illustrator who works with many Children’s authors and publishers elevating the reach and engagement of reading amongst young children to greater heights every time. A special welcome to those who have found my review today through the official Usborne Blog Tour - so happy to see you here!
Do you need to have read the first book? Well, usually I’d say you possibly not, however, this time - yes. You do need to have read ‘The Book of Stolen Dreams’, so that if the vividness of the story has faded, then the aide memoires in ‘The Secret of the Blood-Red Key' will trigger all the emotions you experienced in Rachel and Robert’s first adventure. It will enrich your experience untold for the delight of reading the sequel.
About the book
🌱Back in 2021 David Farr made his Children’s fiction debut with ‘The Book of Stolen Dreams’. The Night Manager and Hanna screenwriter has adapted his masterful storytelling gift to share the tale of two of the brave children, siblings Rachel and Robert Klein. Inspired by the true events of David Farr’s own Great-Aunts, who as German Jews escaped the Nazi wave of antisemitism during World War II, the first book features many parallels to the Holocaust, those who were taken to concentration camps, those who resisted, and those who survived against all the odds. Thus, David pulled readers into his fictional country of Krasnia under the rule of the ruthless, evil and child-hating dictator President Charles Malstain. On Rachel's birthday her father took her and her brother to the public library where he worked. Felix Klein needed his children to embark on a mission to save their country from the tyrant ruler. There he showed them a rare book with magical powers of eternal life. It was the guardianship and search for the final missing page that put Rachel and Robert's lives in terrible danger whilst they worked out clues and escape from the clutches of the enemy time and again in order to do what's right.
🌱'The Book of Stolen Dreams' reminded readers that children are resilient, brave and hopeful even when in the most perilous of situations. There were so may threads woven into the plot bringing it together just like the poetry and beauty of ‘The Book of Stolen Dreams’ itself. Resistance fighting, believing in people no matter their past and never giving up on freedom, justice and peace are all powerful elements of this memorable storytelling.
🌱In 'The Secret of the Blood-Red Key', the reader is returned to Brava, the capital city of Krasnia, and it is merely 6 weeks since Malstain was deposed, killed, and the evil cruelty of his dictatorship ended. Krasnia’s heroine, 12 year-old Rachel Klein, is trying to find the her new ‘normal’, now back to school and home with her father and brother, she is forever haunted and reminded of her achievements by passers-by. Her father, Felix Klein is wracked with grief and trauma, a shadow of his former book-loving librarian self. Her brother, Robert Klein, is so absorbed with his post-resistance political progress that he barely notices Rachel. How long can they go on like this as a family?
🌱Rachel makes an excellent, selfless, heroine, together with her brother who would do anything to keep her from harm and who has a clever mind, they have survived against all odds. However, a heroine, and one such as Rachel, can’t just slip back into ‘normal’ life. Whether it’s visiting the Meyers (the family of ghosts bound to their home as the creators of the ‘Book of Stolen Dreams’), or not, her life is no longer without the supernatural, and she’ll never be the same again. Luckily for us, I mean Rachel, a ‘spy world’-like clandestine meeting on a park bench takes her on another dangerous quest. And so another 'Stolen Dreams Adventure' begins...
🌱Having been handed a ‘blood-red’ key and a card with an emergency phone number on, she is told that this key gives her entry to the Hinterland - the land of dead souls, with its dark magic. It seems she might now be part of a very special secret society as a ‘keeper of the key’. Once you’ve finished reading my review… scroll down to my ’Symbolism in the Book’ section, because it’s from this point onwards that the implied is so delicious when reading this story, that you are running multiple narratives along in your own imagination that gives the book it’s edge.
🌱Rachel comes to learn of a huge error of judgement by some of the Meyer family that has corrupted order within the Hinterland - the transition realm of the dead. A young 9 year-old girl has mysteriously gone missing from the living world in a village near Brava, and so has one of the Meyer ghosts - the most mischievous and foolish of them all who has made a deal with the ‘Trueblood’ family (I interpret this as ‘Aryan’ if the series continues its underlying abhorrence of the Hitler-Nazi-antisemitism ideology) and it involves a certain ‘Book of Stolen Dreams’ and the thin magical and spiritual veil between the living and the dead.
🌱The mystery of how to return the girl back to her family lies with the key Rachel now has in her possession. She must chant the incantation and journey through the lavender and rosemary filled walled garden in order to open the gate to the Hinterland. Then she has only 24 hours to find the girl and get back out before she can never return again, never see her brother or father until they one day die themselves.
🌱David Farr’s imaginary Hinterland is vividly described, the differences given between the temporary resting places for souls which reflect the lives they led before they died - black and white for adults and colour for children; areas along shorelines named ‘Liar’s Lair’, ‘Tyrants Tower’, ‘Burglars’ Burrows’, ‘Killers’ Caves’, ‘Meadow for Children’, ‘Musicians’ Mews’… all temporary stops before the souls reach a point in their consciousness that they are ready to terminally depart into ’the Flow’ (painted as an almost galaxy like home for souls as the stars sparkling above) via the ‘Sea of Acceptance’. Is this heaven? Does the author believe in heaven? If the story does depict an either/or then hell is the ‘Tyrants Tower’, where those who have committed the most evil humanly possible whilst living are left and never allowed to be at eternal peace in ‘the Flow’. The author includes characters in the Hinterland that are winged, called Bibilos, there are also some ‘shimmering figures’ who make up the High Council. Rachel, like all children in the Hinterland, is assigned a pet. Along comes a bounding beagle filled with all the characteristics needed for this type of life-or-death sleuthing. This is a beautiful addition to the story, the dog having his own living world experience to share like so many of the souls do.
🌱Meanwhile, Rachel’s brother eventually learns of her mission. Without Robert and his ingenuity, bravery and sibling loyalty, she almost certainly would have failed. I have to stop. There are absurdities, incredulities, eerie scenes of transcendence, supernatural reunions and all the while the clock (‘Horus’) is ticking time away until it just might be too late for good to conquer the most evil of evils. Is there anywhere safe? In either life or death? This is a powerful story about loss and pain, and whether it is really possible to play God.
How much of my interpretation is just in my own imagination? You read, you decide!
“I wanted to create my own magical world. I also wanted to write about now, about the world we live in. Charles Malstain is as close to Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump even as he is to Josef Stalin or Hitler. We have monsters in our world too sadly and we need to fight them, as Rachel and Robert do.” - David Farr
Symbolism in the book - Nicci’s research!!
Rachel Klein’s Blood-Red Key’s Emergency Contact Phone Number: 634234
I thought hey, why not Google the phone number… just in case it might exist, for fun… I didn’t expect to enter the quantum rabbit hole of rabbit holes!!!! First off: 634234 is a hex (hexadecimal) colour code (all the colours you see digitally have colour codes). Oooo that’s cool I thought, that must be the EXACT colour of the ‘blood-red key’!! Incidentally this isn’t the hexadecimal colour code for blood, which is #8a0303.
“The hexadecimal colour code #634234 is a medium dark shade of red-orange. In the RGB colour model #634234 is comprised of 38.82% red, 25.88% green and 20.39% blue. In the HSL colour space #634234 has a hue of 18° (degrees), 31% saturation and 30% lightness. This colour has an approximate wavelength of 590.46 nm.” - (Source: https://encycolorpedia.com/634234)
Oooo then I thought, that’s interesting… the colour has a wavelength (don’t remember being taught this in school!). So I did some more research and found a website that converts wavelengths to wavenumber… Oh my gosh, you have to bear with me!!!!
“Wavelength and wavenumber are two very important concepts discussed in physics and various other fields. Wavelength is the distance between two consecutive points which are in the same phase. Wavenumber is the number of wavelengths in a given distance along the propagation of the wave.” (Source: https://convert.impopen.com/index.php)
I inputted the wavelength of the hex colour code wavelength for the ‘blood-red key’ and I ended up with the following:
59049 nm = 169.35 cm–1
(169 cm–1 is in the Far-IR wavelength region*)
Why stop there, I mused, taking another sip of coffee, let me just Google the ‘blood-red key’ wavenumber result of 169.35, and here’s why I nearly fell off my chair and gasped, forgot to breathe back out again and felt a little dizzy…
“Numerology is an ancient practice that studies the correlation between numbers and events in our lives. When you repeatedly see the Angel Number 169, the universe is trying to send you a message. The numbers in 169 carry their own significance - the number 1 represents new beginnings, leadership, and intuition, the number 6 represents balance, harmony, and home life, and the number 9 represents humanitarianism, spirituality, and endings. Together, they form a powerful message about significant changes in your life. Biblical Meaning of Angel Number 169= In the Bible, the number 9 represents spiritual enlightenment, wisdom, and leadership. It also signifies the completion of cycles and endings. In the book of Revelation, the number 16 represents the destruction and fall of Babylon, and the number 9 represents the spiritual renewal of the world. When combined, the number 169 represents a spiritual transformation and a new beginning. Overall, the Angel Number 169 is a message of spiritual awakening and manifestation. It encourages you to focus on your spiritual growth while taking steps towards manifesting your goals. Is Angel Number 169 A Manifestation Number? Yes, the Angel Number 169 is a manifestation number, as it encourages you to manifest your dreams by taking intentional action. It reminds you that you have the power to create the life you want by focusing your mind, heart, and spirit on your goals. The universe is reminding you that you are capable of achieving anything you desire, and that you should set out to manifest success in all areas of your life.” (Source: Astrology.com)
The Trueblood family’s hunt for immortality
I interpret the presence of the Trueblood family in this sequel as ongoing Nazism with their name a synonym for Aryan, evil characters who supported the now defeated Hitler-esq President Charles Malstain. They Nazis really did have an organisation called the Nazi ‘Ahnenerbe’ or Ancestral Heritage Research and Teaching Organisation - a paranormal research group established by the SS head Heinrich Himmler on 1 July 1935. Read more about it here: https://www.thedailybeast.com/hitlers-hunt-for-the-holy-grail-and-the-ghent-altarpiece
The Higher Council of the Hinterland:
6 shimmering figures “like light or liquid mercury”
Ancient alchemists were convinced that mercury transcended both the solid and liquid states, both earth and heaven, both life and death. Mercury is one of the seven metals of alchemy (gold, silver, mercury, copper, lead, iron & tin). Read more about this here: https://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/alchemy/80/mercury#:~:text=Alchemists%20were%20convinced%20that%20mercury,heaven%2C%20both%20life%20and%20death.
Bobby the Beagle
“Possessing a great sense of smell and superior tracking instincts, the beagle is the primary breed used as a detection dog for prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in quarantine around the world. The beagle is a popular pet due to its size, good temper, and a lack of inherited health problems. Beagles are excellent with children and this is one of the reasons they have become popular family pets. Beagles are pack animals; they are prone to separation anxiety, a condition which causes them to destroy things when left unattended.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beagle)
Lavender and Rosemary of the Walled Garden at the gate to the Hinterland
“The purple hue of these flowers is also connected to the crown chakra, the energy center for a greater purpose and spiritual connection. …As the lavender frequently appears in the Bible, it also represents morality, along with purity, devotion, and love. Because these flowers have been used for over 2500 years, there is a profound meaning in their spiritual significance. It is believed that this lavender meaning spiritual is related to the fact that they are connected to the crown chakra, which is the energy center and affects spiritual enlightenment and consciousness.” (Source: https://www.evergreenseeds.com/lavender-symbolism/)
“Rosemary connection to remembrance dates back several centuries. The herb has been used in funerals to commemorate the deceased. In some cultures, mourners hold rosemary sprigs and threw them into the coffins, while in others, the stems are put in the hands of the dead…. One writer who often used rosemary in this context was Shakespeare. In the all-time classic Hamlet, Ophelia mentions rosemary for remembrance, stating:
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.
Pray you, love, remember…”
Shakespeare also used it as a symbol of remembrance in another line from The Winter’s Tale. In Romeo and Juliet, rosemary was placed on Juliet’s tomb as a symbol of loss and remembrance.” (Source: https://symbolsage.com/rosemary-herb-meaning/)
Phew that was FUN!!!!!
I know, I know… but still… you never know… right?
I wonder what David makes of it all… *gulp*
Read the Introduction and First Chapter extract from 'The Secret of the Blood-Red Key'
Watch a video on YouTube by author, David Farr, talking about the Stolen Dreams adventures:
Visit the author’s website for more information including lots of great free games and quizzes:
If you want to know more about author, David Farr’s mother’s family and the true story that lies behind The Book of Stolen Dreams, you can read about it here:
About the creators
David Farr (author)
David Farr is one of the UK's leading screenwriters and directors for film, TV and theatre. In 2009, he was appointed Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where his productions of The Winter's Tale, King Lear and The Homecoming all opened to critical acclaim. David is known for his work on Spooks and his 2016 BBC adaptation of The Night Manager, starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston. He completed his first feature film, Hanna, in 2009, and has since adapted it into a hugely successful series for Amazon Prime, and has recently adapted The Midwich Cuckoos for Sky. The Book of Stolen Dreams was his first novel
Kristina Kister (illustrator)
Kristina Kister is an illustrator and character designer from Essen, Germany. After graduating in Communication Design she worked as a junior art director in an ad agency in Düsseldorf, where she illustrated for clients like Weight Watchers, Fashion Designer Thomas Rath, DHL and many more.
Today she is a freelance illustrator illustrating pen & paper books, children’s books, developing character and concepts for German TV shows and all kinds of projects which involve illustration work.
Having a background as a graphic designer, her style is characteristic for geometric shapes, unusual colour palettes and clear outlines. Working mostly digital, she experiments with watercolour and pencil textures to give it an analogue feel.
Good vs Evil
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Publication date: 14 September 2023
The first book in the The Stolen Dreams Adventures, 'The Book of Stolen Dreams' is available now in paperback or hardback edition:
*reviewed from an advance reading copy provided by the publisher
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