The Haunted Cathedral, by Antony Barone Kolenc (published by OakTara, 2013)

How could a story about Xan, a twelfth century English orphan possibly relate to today’s youngsters? Xan was neither caped-crusader nor superhero. Violence destroyed his neighborhood and family. He was poor, undernourished, homeless, and the victim of bullies. His relationship with his girlfriend became very complicated. Xan had no real control over his life and destiny. As a serf, the lord of his manor “owned” him. His uncle could have forced him to move away from his friends and serve as his apprentice in an unfamiliar city. With all this baggage, the reader can see why resentment could grow in Xan’s heart.

Xan’s teacher Brother Andrew reminded the boy that we pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And “If someone strikes your right cheek, turn your left as well.” Xan found these scriptures harsh especially after his bleeding mouth had swollen from a bully’s punch and when the Abbot prevented the local lord from executing the leader of the bandits who raided Xan’s village, killed his family and then attacked the monastery, injuring the Abbot.

Xan reflected on his difficulties during a cart ride from rural Harwood Abbey to the major city of Lincoln, its castle and haunted cathedral. His companions on this trip included, Brother Andrew, two armed guards and Carlo, the hated leader of the bandit gang. The relationships between the passengers reached a climax in a confrontation between Xan and Carlo. Could Xan see any good in the bandit? Could he trust Carlo with the lives of others?

While Xan awaited a meeting with his uncle, to decide his future, he toured Lincoln with neighborhood children. They showed him the sights, especially the haunted cathedral. Xan and his new friends attempted to solve the ghostly-mystery. Again, Xan’s analytical powers aided by the advice of trusted adults and the cunning of his companions, brings to light what had confounded everyone else. Carlo provided a key to the mystery, in the form of an unwelcome gift. Xan reluctantly accepted the gift while hating it almost as much as he hated Carlo. As events unfolded, the gift revealed its life-changing significance, suggesting repentance and inviting forgiveness.

Antony Barone Kolenc keeps his readers in constant suspense with his twisted story line while he delivers a powerful emotional punch and material for spiritual reflection. The Chronicles of Xan II: The Haunted Cathedral, speaks to all generations as it represents the pain and promise of growing up in any century. It recognizes the gift of children, their contributions to the community and the need for intergenerational dialogue. Antony Barone Kolenc has carefully crafted this second book in the Xan Trilogy as and excellent resource for educators, parents and youthful students. It deserves a place at the top of reading lists for school reading programs and in the personal libraries of those who love a great mystery.

(© 2013 Donald J. Mulcare)

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