Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Published: Published July 14th 2015 by Disney•Hyperion
Format: Paper Book
Length: 299 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Paranormal
Rating: 3.5 stars
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Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although 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 the 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, one 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.
There was a lot of excited chatter when Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty came out this summer. Frist of all, gorgeous cover. This is one of my favorite covers from this year. Second of all, the story is set at Biltmore Estate, in North Carolina. I love that place. I’ve only visited once when I was a little kid but I wish I could go back as an adult so I could appreciate it probably. It’s a gorgeous house and land. This isn’t a complicated story and it’s fairly predictable but it is cute and fun. There are some pacing problems and a fair amount of “special snowflake syndrome” but this might not matter to a younger reader. I do have one massive problem with Serafina and the Black Cloak but I’ll save that for last.
Serafina and the Black Cloak is a mix of fantasy and mystery. Children are disappearing at the Biltmore Estate and an evil man in a black cloak is prowling the grounds. Thankfully, the evildoer is not the only one on the prowl. Serafina’s secret was obvious and I felt like I could have stopped reading in the middle and not missed a thing. I started skimming parts and for a shorter book, this is not good. If you’ve got a short book then you want to make every single part important and gripping. Serafina gets lost in the woods in the first half and that takes up more pages than it should. Then the plot is sort of meandering after that.
I found myself growing impatient. I could see where everything was going, guessed the secrets by about the halfway point, and was pretty much done by that stage. I finished reading that book in case the author wished to surprise us with something different but no such luck. There is a haunting and ominous atmosphere to the setting that I found enjoyable. The characters fill pretty standard roles and feel a little plastic, although some of Serafina’s thoughts on good and evil are well done. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty has a charming and nostalgic feel to it from books I read as a child but falls short of being really great as an adult.
My biggest issue with this book is the beginning. Trigger Warning! I don’t know why some proofreader or editor didn’t turn to Beatty and say “You know your beginning sounds like a pedophile rape scene, right?” Because it totally does. Serafina and the Black Cloak is published by a Disney company and you can’t tell me nobody bought a clue reading that. That scene would seriously trigger a rape survivor. It even made me uncomfortable reading it. A little blond girl being dragged through a dark basement (Please, sir, we aren’t supposed to be down here!), a man with a raspy voice (I won’t hurt you, little darling.), and just everything (The man wraps his arms around the little girl and pulls her to his chest and then shudders.). I seriously can’t believe someone didn’t Nope that hard.