Book Review: Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty

Posted March 8, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 3 Comments

Book Review: Serafina and the Twisted Staff 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 Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
on July 12, 2016
Pages: 370
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Serafina and the Black Cloak, Serafina and the Splintered Heart, Willa of the Wood

Second in the Serafina paranormal fantasy series for young Young Adult readers and revolving around a young girl, half-shifter and half-human, set in 1899 at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

My Take

It’s good versus evil in a loyalty test with plenty of excitement, action, and adventure. It includes several good lessons for young readers, including Serafina’s revelations about the many paths of the future, those bits of actual history Beatty includes, and Serafina who learns to not judge people by their clothes. I also love how the Vanderbilts accept Serafina’s advice. Very empowering for kids.

Ooh, that Beatty. He did a nice job of pulling in elements of Serafina and the Black Cloak, 1, as well as incorporating the people and truths of the Biltmore Estate and some of the Vanderbilt history. And I want to explore that house what with all those hidey-holes Serafina uses. I do love hidden ways.

Poor Serafina. Now that she’s been discovered, her pa is insisting she learn society manners. She’s also learning from her mother, even as we learn more about the catamounts fighting evil. It’s a fascinating character arc for Serafina. She also learns about her real father and draws inspiration from him.

Again, Serafina and the Twisted Staff uses a third person protagonist point-of-view from Serafina’s perspective, so we only see the story through her eyes. As for that critical Rowena, she is nasty at the start and starts to thaw as we read. And Braeden, he too comes to a revelation helped by Serafina’s observations.

The Story

Serafina’s defeat of the Man in the Black Coat has exposed her to the Vanderbilts who embrace her — and make her pa proud. Discovering her mother means Serafina embraces her birth family, eager to learn the ways of her other half. But Serafina finds herself caught between her two worlds: she’s too wild for Biltmore’s beautifully dressed ladies and formal customs and too human to fully join her kin.

But worse, Serafina encounters a strange and terrifying figure in the forest and is attacked by the vicious wolfhounds that seem to be under his control. Even worse, she’s convinced that the stranger was not alone, that he has sent his accomplice into Biltmore in disguise, as a mysterious series of attacks test Serafina’s role as Biltmore’s protector, culminating in a tragedy that tears Serafina’s best friend and only ally, Braeden Vanderbilt, from her side. Heartbroken, she flees.

In her flight, Serafina comes face-to-face with the evil infecting Biltmore — and discovers its reach is far greater than she’d ever imagined. All the humans and creatures of the Blue Ridge Mountains are in terrible danger. For Serafina to defeat this new evil before it engulfs her beloved home, she must search deep inside herself.

The Characters

The twelve-year-old Serafina discovered that she is half-human, half-catamount in Serafina and the Black Cloak. Her pa maintains the technology that runs the estate and builds up his daughter’s self-esteem by naming her the C.R.C., the Chief Rat Catcher. There are some fascinating devices in this!

In Serafina and the Black Cloak, Serafina reunited with her mother and met her half-brother and half-sister. Waysa is a fellow catamount and friend of her mother’s. The Black One, a fierce warrior and shape-shifting black panther, had been her father.

The Biltmore Estate is…
…owned by George (Cedric, a huge white-and-brown Saint Bernard, is his companion) and Edith Vanderbilt. They’ve taken in their orphaned nephew, the reclusive Braeden, who has become Serafina’s friend, her very first. Braeden’s constant companion is Gidean, a protective Doberman.

Frederick Law Olmstead is one of Vanderbilt’s closest friends and had designed the grounds of the Estate. Consuelo Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill is a cousin who is married to Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, the ninth Duke of Marlborough. Mr Hunt was the architect.

Fourteen-year-old (snooty) Lady Rowena Fox-Pemberton has come to visit. Kess is a peregrine falcon Braeden rescued and healed.

Essie Walker is the maid who helps Serafina fit in; Maggie is another maid. Mrs King is the head housekeeper from England. Mr Rinaldi is the fiery-tempered Italian stable boss. Mr Schenk is the chief forester. Jesse, Bax, and Roamer are some of the estate Plott hounds, hunting dogs.

Superintendent McNamee is one of the cops (and had been the estate superintendent). Detective Grathan has come to investigate Mr Thorne’s disappearance.

The Darkness is so evil animals are fleeing the area. He can also shapeshift into an owl. Mr Thorne had been the Man in the Black Cloak, a horrible man who absorbed the abilities of the souls he collected. Uriah had once squatted on the land Vanderbilt bought and tyrannized the people living there.

The Cover and Title

The cover is is a sky ablaze in deep oranges flaming over the Biltmore Estate at the top of its wooded hill, the pond at the bottom of the hill reflecting the house. Below the pond is a field of flowers. Running across the deeper, smudgy orange of the lower background is a scherenschnitte in old parchment of Serafina being chased by a falcon and two wolves. At the very top is an info blurb in white. Across the bottommost wolf is the title in an embossed black using a twisty font. At the bottom is the author’s name, also embossed and in white.

The title reflects the evil that must be conquered, as Serafina and the Twisted Staff do battle.

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