The story is narrated by young Jon Whitcroft who has just afrived at a boarding school in Salisbury. Jon’s widowed mother has recently started dating seriously a man Jon only calls “The Beard.” Jon’s sisters–and even his dog–adore this new man in their lives; Jon does NOT. He has tried everything he can think of to make The Beard go away. Nothing has worked and now he is the one being sent away to go to school at his father’s alma mater. For Jon this is cruel punishment. He is filled with fear about his new living arrangement and rage at The Beard–who he sees as responsible for this turn of events.
Although the house wardens who meet Jon–Edward and Alma Popplewell–are kind and patient and his two new roommates, Angus and Stu, are also welcoming, Jon is determined to remain miserable. He does not allow anyone’s kind words or gestures of friendship to interfere with his resolve to be so unhappy that his mother will feel horribly guilty (and possibly bring him home).
Jon is distracted somewhat from his mission to stay miserable when he hears horses at night and looks out his dormitory window. On the ground, looking up at him, he sees three mounted ghosts. There are hideously gruesome in appearance and they are smiling evilly at Jon. When one draws his pale sword it begins to drip with blood and Jon feels a pain in his chest.
Understandably, as he stumbles away from the window, Jon is terrified. He soon realizes that NO ONE ELSE can see these spectres. And it is not the last time Jon is to encounter them either. He will soon be drawn into the tale of an old family murder and those who seek revenge for it.
Jon will not have to face his fears completely alone however! He meets the mysterious–and imperious–Ella Littlejohn and her grandmother Zelda (who used to give ghost tours in Salisbury and consequently has much information that may be helpful to Jon). Ella also introduces Jon to the legend of the knight that is buried in the Cathedral at Salisbury; he is said to have taken an oath to appear and come to the aid of anyone who calls for him–as long as he (or she) is truly in need.
Unexpectedly, Jon discovers truths about himself, about friendship, and about his way of relating to other people in the world as he and Ella–with the help of Sir William Longspee–attempt to untangle centuries of deceit, murder and revenge. The fact that each of us has the capacity for both good and evil and the difference lies in our personal choices becomes an important theme in the story–and in particular for Jon.
The story is fast-paced and often heart-poundingly suspenseful! I know my heart sped up during several scenes! The ghosts and historical events referred to in the story–including the murders and betrayals–are actual historical facts, which Ms. Funke lists at the back of the book. For me, this always makes a book more exciting to me when it interweaves itself with the reality of our lives!
There ARE battles and truly evil characters so I would not recommend the book for younger than 3rd or 4th Grade–and even then it will depend on the sensibilities of the individual reader. But I do HIGHLY recommend Ghost Knight as a thrilling read!