Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Received from NetGalley for review.

3.5 stars

Serafina and the Black Cloak is a middle grade fantasy novel that combines the fantastical, the mysterious, the historical and the frightening to create something that I know many people, especially children and teenagers, will love.

It tells the story of Serafina, a young girl who has always lived in the basement of Biltmore Estate with her Pa. The story is set around 1899 and feels true to that era; I quite like the idea of Serafina’s Pa helping to build the Estate and staying on in the basement, hiding away his unusual daughter. When Serafina is introduced she is immediately given an air of mystery – her eyes are golden, her bones are strange and she is able to creep around the halls of Biltmore at night, catching rats and never getting caught. Strange appearance aside, Serafina is smart, fun and spunky, and when she sees a little girl disappearing into thin air at the hands of a man in a black cloak, she sets out to find the man and save other children. Braedon Vanderbilt, nephew of the Estate’s owners, is an equally interesting character; he prefers the company of animals to people and easily befriends Serafina, not judging her for her looks.

My only major issue with this novel is that the mystery of the man in the black cloak didn’t particularly intrigue me, I’m not even sure why, I was just much more interested in Serafina herself. I can see how this is a good book and why it will appeal to others, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations. As with the man in the black cloak I don’t really know why, it’s not something I can pinpoint, other than saying it didn’t hook me and pull me in as thoroughly as I wanted it to; I could easily leave it for a couple of days before picking it back up. I can imagine the fun of reading it at night to a child, though, as it is so entrenched in magic and mystery.

Having said that, the writing is absolutely beautiful, there is no doubt about that; some writing is just delightful to read, it doesn’t matter what is being said, it’s just lovely to read and creates an all-encompassing authentic atmosphere. Beatty has written a superb story, even if it didn’t all work for me; there are fearsome villains, mysterious people, a brave heroine and peculiar goings on.

Read: May 30th-June 5th 2015

3.5/5 stars

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