Thursday, June 11, 2015

ARC Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Pages: 304
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I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
A spooky mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate.
"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.

Middle grade books are not regular fare for me, but when I saw the cover of Serafina and the Black Cloak, I just HAD to know more! And when I found out it was a "spooky mystery-thriller" with the Biltmore Estate as its setting I was all but jumping up and down in anticipation! The premise of this book is so exciting and unique and I had to know what was going on with the Man in the Black Cloak!

The main character is, as you may have guessed, Serafina. She lives in the basement of the Biltmore Estate with her Pa, and has for as long as she can remember. Serafina is also the Biltmore's Chief Rat Catcher, which she is actually amazing at because of her amazing senses and cat-like reflexes. Unfortunately, her Pa won't let her interact with anyone, mostly because he'll lose his job if it's discovered that he's been mooching in a basement for years with his kid. Eventually, though, it was bound to happen. Serafina meets two individuals - the Man in the Black Cloak and Braeden, the nephew of the Vanderbuilts, who own the home.

I absolutely loved every character I met in this book! Serafina was so unique and all of her quirks really came across in the writing. Every strange thing about her was written so nonchalantly as if it was no big deal at all that she only had eight toes. I loved the way she saw the world and the people in it. She was incredibly intelligent and brave throughout the book, taking on baddies that I would run from!

Braeden was another really fun character. I wish a little more had been revealed about his unique ability to communicate with animals, but he was a fantastic character even without that. I enjoyed watching him befriend Serafina and help her in solving the mystery.

The Man in the Black Cloak was sufficiently elusive and terrifying! It was so scary to read about his levitating pursuits and the abilities his cloak gave him. I don't want to give away too much, but this guy is honestly more creepy than some Big Bads I've read about in adult horror!

Having this story take place at the Biltmore Estate was brilliant! It's not very often that I read a book set in a location I'm familiar with, so I expect this must be how people who live in big cities feel since there are books set in Chicago and New York all the time. I've never actually been inside the Biltmore, but I was planning to get married there once, so I know a little.

I loved learning little tidbits about the house itself. Following Serafina around in secret passages made me really want to go do some sneaking of my own to see if they're all really there! The descriptions of some of the rooms in the house were spectacular as well. Now I'm really considering taking a visit before I move out of state next year!

The locations outside the house were equally amazing! I especially loved the graveyard and the path leading to it. It felt incredibly spooky! As did most of the locations, really.

There are actually two separate mysteries going on here. The first is obviously who the Man in the Black Cloak is and what he's done with the children who've gone missing. The second is who Serafina's mother is. I had a pretty good idea about the mother about halfway through, but the Man was a different story.

This was a mystery that was actually quite mysterious, which is not always the case when it comes to the mystery genre. I was pretty surprised to be 60% through the book and still not have it figured out. I thought that it would be pretty simple, being written for a much younger audience, but Robert Beatty really did a wonderful job!

My only tiny issue is the way the book is written, but I kept reminding myself that it's written for twelve-year-olds!

Even though Serafina has not been shelved as "horror" very often, that's what I'm calling it. Quite frankly, it was horrifying! And I loved it! Overall, this book was freaking amazing! I've already recommended it to quite a few people and now I'm recommending it to anyone who is a lover of mystery, thrillers, or horror (as long as you don't mind middle-grade writing)!