Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre(s): Middle Grade, Mystery, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
We don’t review many middle grade books on Nerdophiles so when we do you can be sure that they are basically going to be awesome. Serafina and the Black Cloak is no exception. I absolutely loved this book. When I love a book my reading habits can go either way – I either devour it in a day or I take my time and really enjoy it. This book fell into the latter category. I didn’t want to rush the story.
I didn’t want it to end!
Serafina and the Black Cloak is a fantastical mystery set in the 1800s on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The titular Serafina is a strange girl with unusual features. She has wild eyes and her limbs are unnaturally gangly and awkward. But she’s a good girl who secretly lives with her father, a maintenance worker for the estate, in the basement of the grand estate. Even though she has to stay hidden, Serafina lives a very happy life. She loves her father and she loves exploring the grounds and dark corridors of the estate.
At least, she does until something terrible finds it’s way to Biltmore. Children of visitors and employees of the estate begin to go missing and Serafina discovers the culprit is a terrifying man who stalks the grounds with a mysterious, evil black cloak. In order to protect her home and rescue the missing children she teams up with Braeden Vanderbilt, the quiet and reclusive ward of the Vanderbilt family. Together they embark on a dangerous adventure. In doing so, she not only has to face the mystery of the cloaked man but also the mystery of her own, unknown past and the secrets her father has been keeping from her. And it may take more courage to do the latter than anything else.
Though the book starts out squarely as a historical mystery it quickly finds itself embroiled in the supernatural. The Biltmore Estate is a real place and one that you could actually visit if you were so inclined. But much of the rest of the story instead treads a fine line between historical fiction and supernatural fantasy. For the most part it works well for the story and adds an additional element of uncertainty and apprehension to Serafina and Braeden’s efforts to discover the secrets behind the black cloak. (I do think it does distract a little from the ultimate reveal regarding Serafina’s past, though.)
One of the best things about this book is simply how awesome Serafina is as a main character.
She’s a very strong girl who is more than content with her life. Her family may be small and they may be poor but she never feels sorry for herself. She makes the best of everything and when she’s placed in a position to help others she charges forward even though none of these people even know she exists. She’s brave, thoughtful, and full of hope. Serafina is also not your average heroine. She’s unique and looks very different from other people; a not insignificant amount of effort is put into making the reader understand that. And it doesn’t stop her one bit.
Really, you can’t help but love her!
And I’ll bet you can’t help but love this book either.
The best middle grade books are those that can be enjoyed by anyone and this is certainly one of those books. It doesn’t matter that the main characters are young. The story is engaging and Serafina is the sort of character who will stick with you for a long time. If you’re looking for an endearing middle grade read full of adventure then Serafina and the Black Cloak is just the book for you.