Friday, July 8, 2016

ARC Review: Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty

Title: Serafina and the Twisted Staff (Serafina #2)
Author: Robert Beatty
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 384
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Review for book 1

//This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review//
Serafina's defeat of the Man in the Black Cloak has brought her out of the shadows and into the daylight realm of her home, Biltmore Estate. Every night she visits her mother in the forest, eager to learn the ways of the catamount. 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.

Late one night, 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.

Someone is wreaking havoc at the estate. 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.

Deep in the forest, 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 and embrace the destiny that has always awaited her.

Serafina and the Black Cloak was one of my favorite books of 2015, which was truly surprising since I don't actually review a lot of middle grade fiction. Originally (correct me if I'm wrong) it was only meant to be a standalone book. Luckily for all of us, Serafina was so well received that she got a second book! When Serafina and the Twisted Staff was announced I knew I had to see what happened next!

This book picks up not too long after the first left off. During our time away, Serafina has spent a lot of time with her mother wandering the woods and learning about her catamount nature. Although she hasn't succeeded in shifting to her cat form yet, she is determined to get it right eventually. But when a new danger comes to the woods near the Biltmore, her mother sends her away to keep her safe. Since we're talking about though, she decides to meet it head-on instead.

Serafina in the first book in this series was a lot of fun to get to know. She was seemingly fearless and was just a really interesting character. While I learned a lot about her then, now I feel like she's had a lot more opportunity to grow and develop. At the beginning of the Twisted Staff, Serafina is still prowling around in the walls and vents, sleeping during the day, and generally keeping out of sight of the rest of the house's inhabitants. She is hesitant of interacting with others (especially Rowena, the newest guest) and still sees herself as other. By then end, she has grown to accept herself and has become much, much more confident in her unique abilities!

Braeden also has the chance to come into his own in this second installment. In the first book we get the sense that he is a lover of animals and communicates with them perhaps more easily than with humans. This time around we get to see him fully understand his gifts while seeing his friendship with Serafina develop. I love these two together! While they seem to be from two totally different worlds in the beginning, their relationship really becomes something special and kind of adorable.

When I found out about this book I wondered what the new Big Bad would be and how it would fit in after the Man in the Black Cloak. I was a little worried that the story wouldn't be quite as good as the first, but it was awesome! Robert Beatty has created yet another unique and terrifying villain. While this is middle grade, I would say it's the upper end of middle grade and contains some frightening scenes and imagery... and I loved it!

My one issue with the story was that there were certain things that seemed to have been intended as twists or revelations that were extremely predictable and not surprising at all. Then again, if I was reading this as a child, there's a much better chance I would have been taken by surprise? I just don't think that one or two of the reveals was quite as exciting as they were intended to be. Still, there were a couple that shocked even me, which I really appreciate in a book!

Once again, the Biltmore and it's surrounding landscapes made fantastic settings for this book. It's very obvious that Robert Beatty knows what he's talking about and has done his homework when it comes to Biltmore! I enjoyed getting to discover even more locations than I did in the first book.

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is a fantastic addition to Serafina's story. I'm not sure if there are any current plans for a third book, but it seemed like this one ended in such a way that another book would possible. I really hope to get the chance to see what happens next and I'd definitely recommend this one to those who enjoy middle grade fantasy with a bit of a thrill!