Jon is being sent to boarding school, and it’s all because of The Beard. John had hated his mother’s new boyfriend since the moment he moved into the house. He had done everything he could think of to get rid of The Beard–pranks, open cruelty, trying to turn his little sisters against him– but it is all to no avail. The end result is that Jon get sent to boarding school while The Beard stays in his home. Jon is determined to hate his time in Salisbury. But he never imagined that Salisbury could be a dangerous place for him. His first night in the boarding school, however, convinces him otherwise. He peers out the window and sees four blood stained ghosts on horseback, the marks of a hangman’s rope about their necks. The next day at dusk the horsemen chased him across the school grounds. They call him Hartgill, his mother’s maiden name, and vow that just as they have slain his ancestors, they will not rest until Jon is dead. The only person who believes Jon’s wild tales of murderous ghosts is Ella, whose grandmother leads Salisbury’s ghost tours. Not only does Ella believe him, she knows who can help: William Longespee a 12th century Crusader whose ghost still lives in the cathedral. But John soon learns that William has a tragic and bloody history of his own.
This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Its macabre spectres fall easily into the horror genre, yet there is humor in this book, and Jon’s evolving relationship with his future stepfather is central to the fantasy plot–far more than a framing device. Perhaps the most fascinating element of this story is the medieval history that Funke weaves so seamlessly into Jon and Ella’s lives. At times it seems like there are three plots running concurrently through this book. The plot that I had initially thought to be the primary one is wrapped up about two thirds of the way through the book, while the other two continue. It is an unusual way to create a story arc, but I did not dislike it. I found myself so invested in William Longespee’s story that I was eager to keep reading even after the murderous ghosts were vanquished. This book will have crossover appeal for middle grade fans of either horror or fantasy. I highly recommend the audiobook.
If you liked The Ghost Knight, you might like Coraline by Neil Gaiman.