The Secret of the Blood-Red Key

The Secret of the Blood-Red Key

By Author / Illustrator

David Farr



Age range(s)



Usborne Publishing Ltd








The dazzling follow-up to the phenomenal The Book of Stolen Dreams from master storyteller David Farr, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell and Philip Pullman.

Step inside the pages of an immortal adventure...  Rachel and Robert have defeated the tyrant Malstain and become the heroes of Krasnia, but all is not how it should be. Robert is swept away with his new friends, leaving Rachel alone to take care of her ailing father, who's lost without their beloved mother.

From nowhere, a boy appears knowing the secrets of the hidden blood-red key. For the key is a way into the Hinterland - and Rachel must promise that, as a new key keeper, she will answer when it calls. When a young girl, Elsa Spiegel, is illegally smuggled into the Hinterland, Rachel has no choice but to use her key to save Elsa. But her fate is linked to Krasnia, and Rachel must battle to save her home as she knows it.

Praise for The Book of Stolen Dreams:  "A new and important voice for young people." Michael Morpurgo.  "Dazzling! An instant classic. An eye-wateringly funny and jaw-droppingly fantastical adventure, chock-a-block with rare books, airships, and penguin-shaped hats." Ben Miller.  "A wonderful story. Gripping and magical." Anthony Horowitz

Book One:  The Book of Stolen Dreams



In The Secret of the Blood-Red Key, we are reunited with the familiar world of Krasnia and its inhabitants. Our heroes Rachel and Robert Klein have saved the country from the wicked dictator Charles Malstain and peace and order has now been restored. They are rightly now recognised as heroes of Krasnia. However, after the victory Rachel was left with a Blood Red Key which she had secretly hidden away from her family. A boy appears out of nowhere and explains to Rachel that she is now a Keeper of the Key and she must follow its demands at all times. Meanwhile, a young local girl named Elsa has been taken and smuggled away into the Hinterland, which is the world between life and death. When the key starts glowing, although bewildered and confused, Rachel begins to understand that as the Keeper of the Key she is the only person who can save Elsa. With time running out, armed only with the key, she must go into the unknown Hinterland; she is the only person who can complete this dangerous mission. However, the questions remain: Why Elsa? Who is planning to enter the Hinterland? and what are they trying to seek out?

David Farr does not disappoint with the sequel to the incredible The Book of Stolen Dreams. Our protagonists Rachel and Robert are the true heroes of the story and fight for justice and will risk their lives to do what is right. The plot is fast-paced and the reader is always aware of the amount of danger the children find themselves in. Farr has created some truly despicable and unscrupulous villains who really are inherently selfish and wicked. I found myself gasping at their pure evilness. I also really enjoyed revisiting some of the old characters from the previous novel. His descriptions and depictions of the Hinterland leave the reader imagining themselves in this ethereal world between life and death.

This is a must read for those who have read The Book of Stolen Dreams, but equally, it is possible to read the book as a stand alone novel. A great mystery, adventure, fantasy for readers aged 9+. 

336 pages / Reviewed by Julie Broadbent, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 9+


Robert and Rachel Klein have defeated the villainous Charles Malstain; the land of Krasnia and its capital city, Brava, are now full of joy, colour and happy citizens, and Rachel and Robert are national heroes. Then a boy appears from nowhere and presents Rachel with a blood-red key. She has now been appointed a Keeper of the Key and must promise to follow its commands. A young girl, Elsa Spiegel, has been smuggled into the Hinterland and is in grave danger. Rachel must use her key to try and save Elsa from the dastardly plot hatched by the creepy Horace and Mary Trueblood. A dangerous battle against evil awaits her in the Hinterland.

The Secret of the Blood-Red Key is a tremendously successful sequel to the wonderful The Book of Stolen Dreams. The reader is plunged into a thrilling, thought-provoking and moving adventure. We are reintroduced to the characters of Robert, Rachel and their librarian father, Felix, and meet new ones like Elsa, her sister Clara, and the mysterious Anil. The action never flags; the author uses his clever trick of switching the focus of the story between Robert and Rachel, leaving each chapter on a cliffhanger, which ensures the readers' interest is engaged at all times.

Rachel is brave and loyal, determined to save Elsa. When she is confronted by her old enemy, Malstain, she knows she must do everything she can to prevent him from returning to Krasnia. Robert is a little dismissive of Rachel at the start of the book, too preoccupied with his own life to take much notice of his sister. However, he loves her dearly and is there for her when she most needs his help.

The descriptions of the Hinterland are just wonderful, we learn about the Meadow of Children, the Caves of Loss, the Sea of Acceptance and the Flow. It is also good to know that there are special places for those people who did not lead good lives - Liars' Lair and Tyrants' Tower to name but two! Once again, Rachel meets her dead mother in the Hinterland in a beautifully written chapter. The reader learns much more about the workings of this strange place, and about the acceptance of death.

We are also given a quite scary description of a Soul Transfer, an event which could change Rachel and Elsa's lives forever. Rachel's key only allows her 24 hours in the Hinterland before it expires and she is stuck there forever. I loved the introduction of the character of the Horus, who pops up intermittently to tell Rachel (and the reader!) how much time she has left – a really clever device which introduces a sense of urgency, while allowing us to keep track of how much time has passed. Rachel and Elsa are also given pets on their arrival in the Hinterland, and Bobby the beagle and Titus the mouse prove to play an extremely important part in the story.

The novel builds to a truly thrilling climax. I feel sure that we will hear more from this intrepid duo,  Rachel and Robert, and also from Anil who, I think, has a story all of his own to tell! The illustrations, by Kristina Kister, are a beautiful and sympathetic addition to the novel.

I loved this book, with its themes of family, love, death and acceptance, and cannot wait to read the next instalment. After all, as Rachel herself says, "Death is only one part of the journey. Believe me. There is so much more."

336 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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