25 Days of BookRecs 2017

Serafina and the Black Cloak ★★★★☆

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Serafina’s father always told her to never go into the deep parts of the forest, “for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.” She never had a reason to disobey her father’s wishes for her to remain on the grounds of the Biltmore estate, exploring its many rooms, taking care to never, ever be seen by anyone (especially since the Vanderbilt’s don’t know she exists or that she and her pa have been living in their basement).

When children start to go missing, however, Serafina hunts down the culprit. Even though it means disobeying her father and going into the woods.

“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.

Serafina and the Black Cloack by Robert Beatty is a new middle grade book from Disney Hyperion. Serafina is a cat like little girl, she is agile, smart, has great hearing–which comes in handy for hunting all those rats at the Biltmore estate–it’s probably her animal magnetism (ha!) which attracts Braeden Vanderbilt, Mr. Vanderbilt’s nephew, to her in the first place.

Watching these two form a friendship based on curiosity, necessity, and trust was simply magical. It was a cautiously built relationship which really brought out a sense of realism inside this historical fantasy.

Beatty has amazing attention to detail. I haven’t been to the Biltmore since I was a child but his descriptions really brought me back there. Beatty must have done some thorough research.

This was particularly dark for middle grade. Watching the Man in the Black Cloak take the children was absolutely terrifying! But slowly figuring who was taking the children was even more chilling!

Serafina is incredibly brave for someone who has had little to know social interaction for twelve years. And there in lies my ONLY problem with this. While her father has his reasons to hide her from the world I was deeply perturbed by his lack of care for Serafina. He never buys her clothes because he doesn’t want people asking questions about why he is buying little girl clothes, but isn’t that creepy in and of itself? I understand he is trying to hide her but all she has to wear is a large shirt and belt made of twine. A belt, I might add, that her father did not make for her, but that she made for herself.

I just think that little factoid was too much. I wonder why her father couldn’t have made her patchwork dresses from his old clothes which would have seemed less sketchy than letting his daughter run around in just a shirt.

BUT OUTSIDE OF THAT: It had great pacing, great action, and great characters. Everything connected wonderfully.

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