“It was true that she was a creature of the night. But she would decide for herself what that meant. She had two choices before her: to slink away and hide, or to dare to fight.”
– Robert Beatty, “Serafina and the Black Cloak.”
“Serafina and the Black Cloak,” is the first instalment in the Serafina series by Robert Beatty. Serafina is different from other children, though she isn’t exactly sure how. With her wild adventurous spirit, her love of the hunt, and a knack for finding her way around in the dark, it sometimes seems that Serafina is more animal than human. Away from the dangers of the forest and the prying eyes of the Estate’s owners and guests, her father urges her to stay hidden away in their secret home located in the basement of the Biltmore Estate. However, Serafina must brave the unknown, stepping out of the shadows and into the light, to save the children who have recently been abducted from the Biltmore by a mystery specter. With her new friend, Braeden Vanderbilt, by her side, Serafina sets out to unravel the mystery of who she is while protecting the Biltmore and it’s inhabitants from an unknown evil.
I decided to read this book series because it is my son’s favorite and because the book’s plot takes place at the Biltmore Estate, which is a major attraction in my state. This book tremendously exceeded my expectations. I thought I was in for a quick kid friendly read, but this book turned out to be enjoyable for all ages. I thought that the author of this book did a fantastic job with character development. Each character was unique and well thought out. I especially enjoyed the detail that went into the development of Serafina. From the beginning, it was clear that Serafina was part tame and part wild. She wanted to fit in with the world around her, but she couldn’t deny the love that she had for the parts of her that were different. Even though she wanted to be like “normal” girls, the things that made her different also made her feel most herself. This comes through in both the character’s personality, mannerisms, and appearance. Serafina even seemed to have her own way of speaking that set her apart from the other characters in the book. To prevent spoilers, I won’t go into detail about the specific thing that made Serafina different from others. However, I will say that I appreciate Beatty’s creativity here and I am happy that he didn’t default to the tiered and predictable werewolf narrative.
Additionally, I enjoyed how the author depicted the budding friendship between Serafina and Braden. It was a bit awkward in the the beginning as these two loners tried to connect with one another. At times, it seemed like Braeden was trying to befriend a wild animal. Braeden’s knack for calming animals seemed to make him the perfect friend for Serafina. Thankfully, it didn’t take these two long to connect with one another.
The plot of this book was exciting from beginning to end. I appreciated that instead of dragging through a long introduction, this book delved right into the action. I found it to be a refreshing change from the books that I have read in the past few months. Before reading this book, I thought that the idea of a killer cloak was a bit cheesy. However, I now feel that the author did a really good job tying everything together in a way that made the killer cloak both spooky and intriguing. I didn’t expect to be surprised by this book, but I certainly was. I thought that I had pegged down the cause of the disappearing children early on, but I was wrong. I was also surprised by HOW the cloak and it’s wearer abducted and used the people that were taken. This was probably one of the most interesting things about the book for me, but I’m going to leave it at that. I won’t give away any spoilers here in this post.
As a native North Carolinian, my absolute favorite thing about this book was the element of setting, the authors description of the Biltmore Estate and the surrounding area, and the breadcrumbs of Appalachian culture spread throughout the story. The author perfectly described specific rooms and items in the Biltmore Estate. Personally, I loved the author’s description of the library, the secret passageways, and the oval room. Some of the characters in this book, including Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt, were based on real life people. Additionally, the author seemed to capture the Appalachian vernacular and folklore very well. I was happy to read words and phrases in this book that I haven’t heard since my great granny was alive. Beatty didn’t simply use the Biltmore Estate as the setting for his story, he weaved bits and pieces of history throughout. The Biltmore Estate has been a major attraction in North Carolina for years. It has always been beautiful, but Beatty helped to make it magical. I definitely plan to take my son on a trip there after I finish reading the series. If you decide to read this series, I would suggest making a trip to the Biltmore Estate too so you can see where all the magic in this series takes place. At the very least, I suggest doing a google search of the Biltmore and it’s rooms so you can fully appreciate what an amazing job Beatty did with his descriptions.
Next Up: “Serafina and the Twisted Staff,” by Robert Beatty (series 2/4) 🦄
Have you ever read this book? What did you think of it? Do you want to recommend a book for me to read? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. If you enjoyed this post, please shoot me a like, comment, or follow.
Love Always, AnxiouslyM