Amateur Book Review, “Serafina and the Twisted Staff,” By Robert Beatty

“She realized now that her life wasn’t just about who she was, but about who she would become.”

-Robert Beatty, Serafina and the Twisted Staff

“Serafina and the Twisted Staff” is the second book in the Serafina series written by Robert Beatty. Picking up three weeks after Serafina and her friend Braeden defeated the Man in the Black Cloak, this story follows Serafina and her friends, both human and animal, as they face a new and even more terrifying evil. As a mysterious sorcerer wanders into the forest near the Biltmore Estate, Serafina discovers that all the animals in the area begin to flee, including her own catamount mother and half siblings. The forest has been invaded by evil and Serafina worries that the same evil has made it’s way into her home, the Biltmore Estate. Feeling that she belongs fully to neither the wild Appalachian mountains or to the civilized world of the Biltmore, Serafina worries that she may have to face this new evil alone. However, both old friends and new come to her side ready to join in the fight. As Serafina and her allies face off against the evil sorcerer, Serafina must learn that life isn’t only about who she is, but about who she is becoming. Perhaps Serafina will finally find her place in the world after all.

Spoiler Alert!

(I have to include some spoilers in this one, but I will try not to give too much away.)

Though the first book in this series was amazing, I personally enjoyed this book much more. Just as the first book in the Serafina series, “Serafina and the Twisted Staff” jumped right into the action. The author certainly didn’t waste any time getting to the point. I am coming to appreciate this aspect of Beatty’s writing style. He seems to understand that many YA readers may lack the patience for drawn out introductions. I feel that his straight to the point style helps to make his books more exciting and encourages readers to remain engaged in the story. Additionally, nearly every chapter ended on a cliffhanger which made me want to keep reading onward. These cliffhangers made “Serafina and the Twisted Staff” a difficult book to put down.

One of my favorite things about this book was the amazing character development of the protagonist, Serafina. When this book begins, Serafina is clearly startling two different worlds. A catamount stuck in her human form, Serafina worries that maybe she doesn’t belong in either world. However, as the story goes on, Serafina finds that she is loved and at home in both worlds. Throughout the story, Serafina struggles to turn into a mountain lion like her mother and half siblings. After trying and failing over and over again, Serafina fears that she will never be able to turn. However, when Braeden’s life is in danger, she is finally able to picture herself as she truly is. Serafina finds that like her father, she is a black panther, not a mountain lion. I was blown away when I learned that Serafina was the “black one” that the villain and his ally had been searching for. I enjoyed reading about Serafina as she learned the history of her family, including her father’s passing and his involvement with the other catamounts and the old man of the forest. Serafina makes new friends in this book, extending her involvement and connection to the world around her. Waysa, a young catamount boy, seems to strengthen Serafina’s ties to her caramount roots as he comes to her aid in battle, looks after her siblings, and teaches her how to swim. However, Serafina’s new friends at the Biltmore, Lady Rowena and Essie, help Serafina to believe that she could have a true home at the Biltmore after all.

I also enjoyed reading about Braeden as he developed throughout the story. It has always been clear that Braeden is a kind boy who loves animals. However, we really begin to see his gifts flourish in “Serafina and the Twisted Staff.” It seems that Braedon may have an almost supernatural ability for healing wounded animals. Additionally, the connections that he makes with them encourages their loyalty and obedience.

I truly enjoyed the plot of this book. I found the villain/s to be much more intriguing than the villain from the first book in this series. There was just something more engaging about a man with a magical staff that controls animals than a man in a black cloak that absorbs the souls he catches. Additionally, I was taken aback when one of the villains was finally reveled. It seemed almost too easy. So easy in fact that I never though they were worth suspecting. I liked the super creepy area where the villain kept the animals and people he abducted caged into graves in iron mortsafes. It definitely added a spooky twist to the element of setting in this story. I enjoyed the fact that Beatty tied the events from the first book in with the events from the second, making them seem like two separate but connected events. I can’t wait to read about the connection a bit deeper in book three.

I think that Beatty did a great job of fully exploring both worlds that Serafina was part of while keeping the book exciting. I loved that the author introduced other types of shifters in this book. In “Serafina and the Twisted Staff” we learn that not only are there mountain lion shifters, there are also owl shifters and black panther shifters. It certainly makes me anxious and excited to learn what types of shifters and characters Serafina will encounter in book three.

Lastly, the author continues to do a fantastic job of describing the rooms and the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. I unintentionally read this book two weeks before Christmas, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book contained some subtle Christmas themes. If you are familiar with the Biltmore Estate, then you probably know that Christmas is a pretty big deal there. I enjoyed getting to read about what the grand Christmas parties of the Biltmore may have been like when the Estate was still lived in.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Next Up: “Serafina and the Splintered Heart,” by Robert Beatty (3/4) 🦄

Have you ever read this book? What did you think of it? Do you have any book recommendations for me? 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

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