Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Posted December 26, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Disney-Hyperion Books on July 14, 2015
Pages: 293
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Serafina and the Twisted Staff, Serafina and the Splintered Heart, Willa of the Wood

First in the Serafina historical fantasy series for middle-grade readers revolving around a young girl who has been hidden all her life on an estate in Asheville, Carolina, in 1899.

In 2016, Serafina and the Black Cloak was nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and for the Goodreads Choice Award for Debut Goodreads Author and the Middle Grade & Children’s Award in 2015.

My Take

Beatty pulled me right in with that unexpected start about rats which segued into a normal father-daughter argument over supper in a not-so-normal living space with the intriguing need for Serafina to never be seen. It’s not long before Beatty sets up the inciting incident, and Serafina breaks that golden rule, setting up such a fuss.

It’s a mix of compassion and neglect. Oh, it’s a benign neglect, the sort practiced by parents and adults everywhere. The one where no one listens to the children. The one which insists on an adult perspective with the experience of an adult, not taking into consideration that a child has his or her own perspective and experience.

The third person protagonist point-of-view is from Serafina’s perspective. It only makes sense since the series is about Serafina, and it also lets us in on her thoughts and feelings as she learns the truth about herself and her inner arguments about whether she should obey her pa or follow her own path.

Lucky for us (and the story *grin*), she chooses her own path and follows her conscience to great rewards. A tale full of moral values any parent would want their child to absorb.

A secondary story is one of rags to riches for one of the guests. A brilliant man, he’s come so far. And it takes the innocence of a child to see his truth.

We also discover the truth of Serafina’s real family, one that fills in those holes without taking away the love her pa has for her, and for Serafina re-discovering her love for him.

It’s a fab and quirky story that will keep you flipping those pages — I don’t care how old you are!

Those last few sentences are odd though, so abruptly added. I reckon I’ll withhold judgment until I’ve read Serafina and the Twisted Staff.

The Story

Nighttime is Seraphina’s safe time to explore, until she crosses the Black Cloak pursuing a young girl, and her world is turned upside down.

Nothing will ever be the same.

The Characters

Serafina is a wild thing in charge of catching rats, i.e., the Chief Rat Catcher. Her pa had helped build Biltmore and now secretly lives in the basement with his daughter while in charge of the mechanicals on the estate.

The Biltmore Estate is…
…owned by George and Edith Vanderbilt, a country mansion in North Carolina. Braeden Vanderbilt is their nephew and ward since his family died in a fire. He’s a loner who prefers the company of his Doberman, Gidean, and horses…with the equestrian ribbons to match. The Vances are neighbors.

Guests include Montgomery Thorne, a man ruined by the Civil War, and Mr Bendel who are companions; Mr and Mrs Brahms are the parents of Clara Brahms, a young, brilliant pianist; and, Anastasia Rostonova, the daughter of the Russian ambassador.

Mr Boseman is the estate superintendent and pa’s boss. Miss Whitney and Tilly are some of the maids; Mr Pratt is one of the footmen. The unreliable Mr Crankshod is to be Braeden’s bodyguard. Young Nolan is one of their best carriage drivers. His pa is the stable blacksmith.

Dardin Forest is…
…a dark, forbidden place with too much magic. Leandra is one of the Black Cloak’s victims.

The Man in the Black Cloak.

The Cover and Title

The cover is whimsical yet dark with only five windows lit in a sprawling manse under the deepening sunset of pale yellows and blues. An old parchment silhouette of a tree limb and Serafina spans the center, branching into the top left and rooted into the bottom right. Spanning the center of the wide tree limb is the title in an inky black. An info blurb is at the top in white while the author’s name (also in white) is at the bottom.

The title is the culprit whom she encounters — it’ll be Serafina and the Black Cloak!

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