Illustrated by Andrea Offermann
Translated by Oliver Latsch
For ages 9 to 12
Little Brown, 2012, 978-0-316-05614-4
When Jon’s mother tells him that he is going to be sent to a boarding school, Jon feels angry, upset, and betrayed. He blames his mother’s new boyfriend, “The Beard,” for coming up with the plan, and when he arrives at his new school in Salisbury, he is determined to be as miserable as possible. This Jon manages to do with great success until something happens that quite takes his mind of being sent to a boarding school.
On his sixth night at the school, Jon looks out of his bedroom window and sees three malevolent looking ghosts staring up at him. They are astride horses, and their horrible appearance quite terrifies Jon. The next day, as he is walking back to the school’s boardinghouse, he is pursued by four ghosts riding ghostly horses. In terror, Jon runs from them, and when he explains his extraordinary behavior to his teacher, everyone treats him as if he has gone mad.
Jon knows that no one believes his story, so he pretends that he was just making it up. Only one person doesn’t fall for this ploy. Ella, a very pretty girl who goes to Jon’s school, believes that he has indeed seen four ghosts. Ella’s grandmother, who fancies herself an expert on ghosts, does not believe that Jon is in danger until she hears that his mother is a Hartgill. Apparently, two of Jon’s ancestors, a father and son, were murdered by a man called Lord Stourton. The lord was executed for his part in the murder, and ever since then male Hartgill descendants have had nasty habit of dying unexpectedly.
Ella’s grandmother suggests that Jon should go to another school, but Ella thinks that he should ask for some help. In her opinion, Jon’s only hope is to ask the ghost of William Longspee, the illegitimate half-brother of Richard the Lionheart, for his help. Apparently the knight swore an oath that he would “protect the innocent from the cruel, and the weak from the strong.” It is said that he made this oath so that he could make up for the “sinful deeds” that he did when he was alive.
Not knowing what else to do, Jon asks William Longspee for his help, and to his amazement the ghostly knight appears and promises to help Jon if he is threatened by Lord Stourton and his four minions. Not long after this encounter with the knight, Lord Stourton, his four servants, and two terrible hell hounds appear and attack Jon and Ella. Jon calls for Longspee who comes to the boy’s aid and dispenses with the dogs, the four ghostly servants, and their malevolent master.
Jon is delighted with Longspee’s success, and is so grateful and that he decides to do what he can to free the knightly ghost from his oath so that he can finally have some peace. Jon and Ella never imagine that their problems with Lord Stourton are only just beginning.
Full of thrilling adventure, terrifying ghostly doings, and surprising plot changes, this exceptional book will thrill readers who have a fondness for ghost stories. It is not a tale for the faint hearted, and throughout the story the author cleverly weaves fact and fiction together to give readers a thoroughly captivating tale.