Mary Ann Kreitzer Review of The Excalibur Mystery

A review of The Excalibur Mystery by Donal Anthony Foley, from Mary Ann Kreitzer at Les Femmes, The Truth:

The third book in Donal Foley’s excellent series, The Glaston Chronicles, is finally here and it’s well worth reading, The Excalibur Mystery, continues the adventures of Matt Bergin and his cousins, Luke and Annie Martin. The teenagers use the portal at Glastonbury Tor to travel through time in order to solve problems and aid those in need. They originally stumbled into the portal accidentally when Annie’s little dog, Toby, disappeared at the Tor inside the arch and the cousins ran after him. They found themselves in World War II France embroiled in the underground movement.

In this novel, the three teens pursue their cousin Theo, a troubled soul dabbling in the occult, who has linked up with the cousins’ adversary Julian, the nemesis from the earlier stories. Julian lured Theo into the portal taking them back to the Middle Ages where Julian hopes to find Excalibur and use it to enhance his evil powers. Julian, along with two satanic allies, believe the cousins are necessary to the search for Excalibur. Theo is the bait to draw the cousins back to the past to find the sword.

The danger to Theo is immediate and the cousins do go searching for him finding themselves in medieval England a few days before the battle of Bosworth Field. They link up with a company of Richard III’s soldiers heading north to block the invasion of Henry Tudor. They know, as their associates don’t, that Richard will be killed in battle by the forces of Henry Tudor who will then have himself crowned as Henry VII. Foley depicts the battle in riveting detail in a powerful denouement. The Battle of Bosworth Field ended the dynasty of the Plantagenets (the House of York) finally ending the long civil War of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster and ushering in the Tudor dynasty.

Foley tells a rousing story with sinister plots, mystery maps, and plenty of action. In many ways the book offers a travelogue of the area between Glastonbury Tor and Leicestershire where Bosworth Field is located and where the decisive battle took place. The Martin family with cousins Matt and Theo visit castles, cathedrals and a medieval fair learning about the history of the events before going back in time to experience everything first hand.

What I found particularly interesting was a debate between Annie and Luke’s dad, Robert, a serious Catholic, and his brother  Gavin, an agnostic. They argue about whether Richard III was really the evil demon portrayed by Shakespeare, the murderer of the two little princes; and what history would have been like if Richard had won the battle. Robert believes Richard’s victory would have provided a bulwark against the Protestant Revolution in England preventing the reign of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, the persecution of the Church, and the destruction of the monasteries. The theme of an alternative history offers much food for thought.

The Excalibur Mystery would make a great book for a teenage Catholic book club offering the opportunity to explore a number of fascinating issues:

  • The power of the medieval Church
  • The influence of the monasteries in providing for the poor (Their loss engendered the notorious work houses and the dark situations described in Charles Dickens’ novels.)
  • The danger of the occult
  • The nature of friendship
  • Repentance and forgiveness
  • The question of what makes a just war
  • How history is written by the victors (and often slanders the losers)
  • The need to be critical thinkers.
  • And a whole host of other challenging and interesting issues.

It would be a great addition to the series to offer book club study guides with questions for each chapter. Young people could definitely benefit from a serious analysis of the issues raised in the stories.

I heartily recommend all the books in The Glaston Chronicles, but especially this one. It opens the window on another time and world with detailed information about historical events without being heavy-handed. Foley’s extensive research is evident throughout the novel. Reading the other books first can provide the back story, but it isn’t necessary to enjoy The Excalibur Mystery of  which can stand alone. It would make a great Christmas gift for teen readers.

The books are $13.95 each or $35.00 for the three-book series. Information about purchasing is available at:

Click here to see the Les Femmes, The Truth page for this review …