Genre

Historical Fiction, Mystery, Middle Grade

Audience

Ages 8-14

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2021

Themes

Forgiveness, loss, friendship, Justice, Murder, Hauntings, Ghosts, Revenge

 

Reviewed by

Tiffany Buck

Pain and a desire for justice can be a powerful thing.  Xan (short for Alexander) is a twelve-year-old boy in 12th century England who has suffered greatly in his short time on earth. A group of bandits invaded his village and killed his parents. As an orphan he was taken in by the monks of Harwood Abbey, but after living there for a year, Xan discovers that he is not a free boy, but a serf. His only living relative, Uncle William in Lincoln, may or may not want to help him. For one so young, this is a lot to take in. Perhaps Xan’s most difficult hurdle is the seemingly kind treatment the monks have shown the bandit that killed his parents, Carlo, and their request that he forgive the man that caused him so much pain.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Brother Andrew, Xan’s teacher, reminds him that we pray those words daily. Refusing to forgive others imprisons us and hardens our hearts. The bandit, Carlo, is sent to Lincoln for judgement of his crimes. Lincoln is a large city, complete with a castle and a cathedral. Carlo is escorted by two guards, Brother Andrew and Xan. On the cart ride from Harwood Abbey to the city of Lincoln, Xan reflects on his pain. Just before reaching Lincoln their wagon is attacked by a bandit. Xan suspects Rummy, a bandit seeking Carlo’s treasure, is responsible. The attack leaves one guard dead and Brother Andrew wounded. Xan must decide if he can trust Carlo with the lives of others.

Xan explores Lincoln with a couple of neighborhood children while waiting for a meeting with Uncle William to decide his future.  He is most fascinated by the cathedral and the ghost story behind it. Attempting to solve the mysterious ghost story, Xan discovers a clue in the form of a gift from Carlo. Throughout the novel it is clear that Xan despises Carlo. Understanding how deeply he hurt Xan, Carlo offers him a gift. Xan accepts it, reluctantly. Could this unwelcome gift change the course of Xan’s life and open the door to forgiveness?

The Haunted Cathedral is the second book in a series. Although I haven’t read the first book, this novel stands on its own as an excellent read. For the history student in all of us, this book includes a map of Xan’s world, a guide to reading historical fiction, a glossary, and an author’s historical note.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Haunted Cathedral. Although this book is written for middle schoolers, it speaks to all generations. It deftly combines the historical fiction, mystery, and coming of age genres. The themes of pain, forgiveness, and growing up are universal. The intergenerational dialogue is natural. I recommend this book to all Catholic readers.

Get Catholic Books & eBooks for as little as $1 to FREE

Saint Magnus: The Last Viking by Susan Peek

A young Viking Prince evades a warlord while finding his own harrowing path to sainthood.

A Life Such As Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

A chance encounter with an amnesiac soldier leads Brigid to discover the realities of the Civil War.

Shadow in the Dark by Antony Barone Kolenc

An immersive mystery and an amateur sleuth set in the walls of a 12th century English monastery

The Phantom Phoenix

A humble phoenix rises from the ashes to clean up corrupt, 1920s Chicago in this thrilling superhero comic

A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude

The first nation in space has sworn off religion, but now they need the help of Fr. McCellan to solve a murder and save them from religious terrorists.

Rachel’s Contrition by Michelle Buckman

After the loss of her child, Rachel goes insane but she must pull her mind back together to solve a murder and save her own life.

The King’s Prey by Susan Peek

When the king of Ireland goes insane, Princess Dymphna must embark on a harrowing journey to freedom.

In Pieces by Rhonda Ortiz

Is a marriage without love the only way to save Molly Chase’s reputation?

City of Shadows by Declan Finn

St. Tommy uncovers a group of elites using an ancient artifact to destroy London.

Outlaws of Ravenhurst, by Sr. M. Imelda Wallace, S.L.

The 10-year-old heir of a noble Scottish family must choose between his inheritance and his Catholic faith.

August & September New Book Releases

Step into Fall with a Good Book

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

This is NOT another DaVinci Code, but it is so cleverly disguised as one it makes the perfect gift for your anti-Catholic friends and family.

Murder in the Vatican by Ann Margaret Lewis

Sherlock Holmes teams up with Pope Leo XXIII to solve crimes in the Holy City.

By Violence Unavenged by Annette Young

A Catholic Historical Epic to Rival The Sound of Music.

The Wind That Shakes The Corn: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman by Kaye Park Hinckley

Sold into slavery on her wedding night, an 18th-century Irishwoman struggles to free herself from her thirst for vengeance.

Saving the Statue of Liberty By Andrea Jo Rodgers

Can John save the Statue of Liberty and keep from getting kicked off the team and out of the Academy?

Gifts Visible and Invisible

If you are looking for a cozy read to get into the Christmas cheer, this collection has it all.

Murder Most Picante by Karina Fabian

The government can’t decide whether he is an illegal immigrant or invasive species. God expects a respectable dragon to find justice for others. This Dragon is not having a good time of it!

Death Cult by Declan Finn

St. Tommy continues his fight against the death cult, battling Voodoo priests and zombies along the way.