Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Have you ever come across a relatively unknown book that was so good that you wondered why most people haven't heard about it? This may be one of those books. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is new, just published this past July 2015 through Disney's Hyperion line. I only came across Serafina when I went to a local book festival. The author Robert Beatty described his novel to an audience of about fifty, and practically all of us were hooked in a matter of minutes.

Serafina is a young girl with interesting talents. She's good at catching rats, she's sneaky, and she has yellow eyes. She lives with her poor father in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. When a mysterious man comes to the Biltmore with a mysterious black cloak, children start disappearing. Serafina decides to come out of hiding and see if she can help find the missing children. Along the way, she comes to learn of her unknown past.

The main target of this book seems to be middle-school-aged children. It's a little too dark for younger kids -- similar to Harry Potter. The writing style is very simple and effectively stays out of the way of the story. Sometimes it gets a little too simple, but the story is so interesting that it's hard to notice. The use of the Biltmore estate is both interesting and daring, even though a few times I found myself thinking, "I heard about that in the tour." At least Beatty did his research. The Biltmore Estate did approve his use of the house and the Vanderbilts as characters. The house fits the story well, and the interactions with the Vanderbilts seem believable.

Overall the book has good pacing and a satisfying ending. Plus it sets up nicely for a sequel (which will come out this July 2016).

I highly recommend Serafina to anyone with children in the 11-18 age range, and for adults who happened to like reading the Harry Potter series.

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