Friday, June 3, 2016

Before You Read Serafina and the Twisted Staff in July, Read (or Reread) Serafina and the Black Cloak

Release Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher & ARC: Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 978-1484709016

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.


Living my entire life in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, I have heard many folk tales of the mountains. I have many ancestors from North Carolina, and the stories that have been passed down to me are nothing short of magical. So when I heard about Serafina and the Black Cloak, with its Asheville and Biltmore Estate setting, I knew I had to read it. 

Twelve year old Serafina lives in the basement with her Pa in the basement of the Biltmore Estate. Set during the time in which the Vanderbilts flourished, Serafina must be kept a secret. As C.R.C (Chief Rat Catcher), Serafina must be very careful and quiet as she slithers through the dark corridors at night. 

Her Pa found her in the Asheville forest when she was first born and took her in, but since he didn't have a child, he knew he had to keep Serafina a secret at  Biltmore, or risk losing his job. But when Serafina encounters the Man in the Black Cloak, her life changes forever. 

From the very first chapter, Robert Beatty throws his readers into a magical world in a place that hosts thousands of visitors each year. I have visited the Biltmore House at least three times in my lifetime, and the descriptions that Beatty paints so beautifully are exactly the way I remember them. Serafina's devotion to discovering the identity of the Man in the Black Cloak pushes the novel forward at such a pace, the reader must stop and catch their breath. But with the fast, intriguing pace, Beatty includes so many rich details and clues to the disappearance of Biltmore children, that the reader becomes one of Serafina's companions. 

As she begins to learn more about the Vanderbilts, especially their nephew (and her new friend, Braeden), the forest and its dark history, her own identity and the explanation of why she is so content in the dark, she becomes such a dynamic character that young readers and adult readers can't help but cheer for her. She is a Cinderella in a world that holds many mysteries. When the final chapter arrives, the reader is saddened to leave Serafina, but only for a little while...

(spoiler alert)

Serafina's defeat of the Man in the Black Cloak has brought her out of the shadows and into the daylight realm of her home, Biltmore Estate. Every night she visits her mother in the forest, eager to learn the ways of the catamount. But Serafina finds herself caught between her two worlds: she's too wild for Biltmore's beautifully dressed ladies and formal customs, and too human to fully join her kin.

Late one night, Serafina encounters a strange and terrifying figure in the forest, and is attacked by the vicious wolfhounds that seem to be under his control. Even worse, she's convinced that the stranger was not alone, that he has sent his accomplice into Biltmore in disguise.

On Sale: Hardcover – July 12, 2016

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