by Robert Beatty
“NEVER GO INTO the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”
Step into the wonderfully whimsical world of Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty, and chances are, you'll be completely enchanted by its magical setting, valiant young heroes, and dark mysteries.
Mr. Beatty deftly builds a unique world full of beautiful details that effortlessly drew me in. Nestled in a forested valley by the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina, is Biltmore Estate (there really is such a place). Within the basement of this vast mansion, Serafina, the Chief Rat Catcher (C.R.C.), and her father, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived down there for as long as she can remember.
With the entire estate to roam, she must take care never to be seen by the rich folks upstairs, and never to leave the estate grounds to venture into the forbidden forest nearby. But, when the children of the estate begin to vanish, only Serafina knows the truth. Her life is thrown into turmoil on the night that she witnessed the Man in the Black Cloak vaporized a child into thin air. And now, he wants her. With the help of Braeden Vanderbilt, the young master of Biltmore Estate, they must stop him before he strikes again. Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest she is taught to fear. There, she discovers a forgotten magic that is tied to her mysterious identity.
Brave and young characters have always held a special place in my heart. Personally, I believe children should nap and eat cookies, not fight the evils of the world. So, I absolutely love Serafina and Braeden. Serafina is unique—eccentric even. But more than that, she possesses a sweet and kind nature with an adorable spunky and fiery personality to match. In contrast, Braeden, is quiet and highly revered. Even born into privilege, he is the pillar of compassion and understanding. I admire how Mr. Beatty explores the uniqueness of individuals like Serafina and Braeden, reminds us to embrace such differences, and that sometimes what makes us different is also what makes us special.
Despite being a middle grade book, there was an aura of death and darkness that was unexpected, yet alluring. I was thrown off tangent many times as to the identity of the Man in the Black Cloak. Oh you are good Mr. Beatty! I underestimated its complexity. The innuendos were just perfect where no one was obviously bad or good. Unlike Serafina, C.R.C., I could not smell the “rat.” The story moves forward with new and unexpected revelations that kept me guessing and wanting more.
I also got a kick out of the fun vocabulary. It was so amusing to come across these words: skullduggery, caterwauled, chickadees, skedaddle, and many more. The diction was quite entertaining.
I’m so glad I read this book. I’ve also purchased a copy for my Goddaughter. As a mom scouring the vast collection of books, Serafina and the Black Cloak will be a permanent collection in our library. I enjoyed it very much.
DISCUSSION: Name a fun word you’ve come across?
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