Image © Cornelia Funke, illustration © Andrea Offermann.
Though my favorite novels for younger readers by Cornelia Funke are her “Inkheart” trilogy, all the other books of hers that I’ve read have been good, and this is another. In present day England, young Jon Whitcroft has some problems with his family. His mom is seeing a new man, who Jon dislikes intensely and has nicknamed “The Beard,” even though the rest of the family adores him. After being as concerned and patient as she can be, his mom eventually decides to get him out of the house by sending him to a cathedral boarding school in Salisbury.
Jon does not want to be at this school, and tries his hardest to not fit in, though everyone seems to be trying to get along with him. But some others have a very different attitude, a group of ghosts on horseback led by a bully named Stourton who has it in for Jon, and wants to kill him. This is not only frightening but baffling to Jon, but a girl at the school, Ella, seems to know where to find answers. Her grandmother, Zelda, is an expert on the ghosts of the area, and with her help they track down the story of Stourton, who killed an ancestor of Jon, and was later hung for it.
What to do? Ella suggests they appeal for help from another ghost of the cathedral, a knight buried there named William Longspee, who legend says will help those in need. Jon and Ella sneak into the cathedral at night and rouse the ghost knight, and he agrees to help them.
Longspee is a brave ghost, and helps when he can, but Stourton is clever, and strikes out at Jon’s friends. Other surprising things happen, such as the appearance of “The Beard” in this ghostly struggle, and troubling mysteries around Longspee and his possible role in another murder are soon part of the mix.
Well told, exciting supernatural adventure with appealing characters and a clever story. Highly recommended.