Shadow in the Dark

Loyola Pr. (Harwood Mysteries: Bk. 1). Jul. 2020. 229p. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9780829448108.
Gr 4-7–In this series debut set in 12th-century England, Xan cannot remember his home, his parents, or even his real name. He has been taken in by Benedictine monks after suffering a traumatic head injury at the hands of bandits. At Harwood Abbey, Brother Andrew acts as a spiritual instructor, Joshua is a friend, and Lucy could be a romantic interest. Solving the mystery of what happened to his village feels like Xan’s calling, but that mystery deepens when a shadowy figure appears on the abbey grounds and the bandits resurface. The text acknowledges violence without gore. Kolenc avoids a heavy didactic tone while exploring themes of forgiveness and of questioning God’s role and intervention. There is a potentially problematic reference to a monk seeking permission for self-flagellation. The main text acknowledges this practice as “a dangerous form of penance,” but only in the glossary under whipping rod is such practice listed as “condemned by Pope Clement VI in 1349.” Readers will appreciate the map of Xan’s world and the abbey floor plan.
VERDICT An engaging medieval adventure with appeal that transcends its denominational press.

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