July 14, 2015
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A spooky mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore EstateSerafina and the Black Cloak is an enchanting read, sure to captivate readers of any age. The mystery aspects - at least the broader bits - may be easy for older readers to guess, but the thrills of the smaller details, the intricacies of 'how' and 'why' remain.
"Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there and they will ensnare your soul."
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There's plenty to explore in the shadowed corridors of her vast home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate's maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.
But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore's corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore's owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak's true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina's hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.
Serafina herself is a character you will love. Living, secretly, in the basement of Biltmore Estate, with her pa she isn't like other girls - and she knows it. She describes her own appearance and behavior, as well as how it's different from most others.It is how that description is done that initially caused me to love her. She doesn't note her differences out of dislike, fear or, really, anything negative. They need to be acknowledged when explaining her life and who she is, so she acknowledges them.
I loved her secret life inside Biltmore and that she is happy with her pa (so long as he doesn't try to make her eat her grits), but also longs for that life she's read about in novels. She wants a family - a mother and father, brothers and sisters - or, at least, to know her mother. She wants a friend, but isn't sure what all it would entail or how to go about it. Especially, when she's supposed to be keeping her existence a secret.
Serafina's brave and her plans are dangerous - if not foolhardy at times - but they fit who she is so well because it's not done for her own enjoyment or notoriety, but because it needs to be done. She cares not just for her pa and, once she meets him, Braeden, but also for all of the people who don't even know she's there.
Braeden is a great match for Serafina. He is not as fearless, he's a bit more reserved and quiet but they both have that same spark in them and they both have traits that make them different than the typical young people of the time. Their characters go together well and make for a brilliant story.
Between the fantastic setting, the enchanting and charming characters, and a compelling mystery, Serafina and the Black Cloak is a middle grade novel that should satisfy readers of any age.
digital copy recieved for review, from publisher, via NetGalley