Seraphina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
To be published: July 14, 2015
Twelve-year old Serafina and her father live in anonymity the basement of the Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, North Carolina in 1899. Her pa has warned her never to leave the estate and venture into the woods, and she has never done so, although she has always been curious about the woods. Serafina is an unusual girl who can see in the dark and her father has labeled her CRC or Chief Rat Catcher. She has always been happy living alone with her father, although this is disrupted a bit after she learns the truth about her birth. She has caught glimpses of the upstairs folks, but never talked to them until the disappearances start happening. She witnesses a girl named Clara being swallowed into man with a great black cloak, but her father doesn’t believe her. She decides to put her trust in Braeden Vanderbilt, the orphaned nephew of George and Edith Vanderbilt, the house’s owners. The two quickly become friends after the carriage Braeden and Serafina are in is attacked by the man in the black cloak, and he sees firsthand what the man can do. As more and more children start disappearing, Serafina is forced to go into the woods to stop the mysterious man and find out why he is kidnapping all the children. Will she be able to save Braeden and the other children before the man in the black cloak strikes again? Recommended for ages 10-13, 3-1/2 stars.
I really liked Serafina as a character, especially because she wasn’t like the other people in the story. I liked that her and Braeden found each other as they were both alone and in need of a good friend. I’ll admit that I didn’t realize the book would be so creepy/scary, but it was just enough to make it interesting but not enough to make it over the top. I have never been to Biltmore but it has been on my must-see list for awhile, so it was interesting to hear about all the different parts of the house and grounds through the story. The author lives in Asheville and has obviously researched the book very well to know all the little details about the house and its history. Plus he wrote the book for his three daughters, which is pretty awesome. I would be interested in more stories about Serafina, if he chose to write more. My biggest gripe was the ending, as it seemed a bit too abrupt and if you were paying attention, you could figure it out pretty early on (at least who the man in the black cloak was) and I would’ve liked more info about the mother and her family. I didn’t understand the truth about her mother until the very end, so the author was good at leaving his audience in suspense in that regard.
Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher Disney Book Group in exchange for my honest review.