Meet Xan, a boy in twelfth-century England who has a knack for solving puzzles. In the first book, Shadow in the Dark he had to solve the puzzle of his identity when he awoke with amnesia in Harwood Abbey. His village burned to the ground, his parents disappeared, and Xan had to forge a new life with the monks while evading the bandits who destroyed his village.
In Book 2, Xan travels from the abbey to Lincoln with Brother Andrew, two guards, and the bandit Carlo. Seeking justice for his parents, Xan struggles with forgiving Carlo before the bandit’s probable death sentence. How could anyone possibly forgive a murderer? And can Xan find his uncle in Lincoln, who might accept Xan as a son and pay the head money to the lord of Hardonbury Manor so Xan can be free of his serfdom?
Travel to the big city is fraught with peril on the road, and danger upon danger awaits in Lincoln. Fortunately, Xan’s good friend Lucy is also in town to help him solve another puzzle. His Uncle William seems to be in trouble. Might the ghost haunting Lincoln Cathedral have something to do with it? Strange things are heard at night, along with flickering lights, scratching sounds, and tremors shaking the whole building.
In the midst of his adventures, Xan wrestles with teenage feelings of grief, rage, remorse, and much more. Will he be able to live with his uncle and learn a new trade, or will he return to the abbey to study with Brother Andrew? This book has an exciting climax full of treasure and traps that reminded me of the film, National Treasure. It is a great book to give students for Halloween, spooky but not gory. It would also be excellent for Lent, with the overarching theme of forgiveness. Recommended for ages 9 and up, if they are strong readers. This is a really well-written medieval mystery.