October 23, 2017

Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

 “Never go into 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 Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s vast and opulent 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 lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to prowl through the darkened corridors at night, to sneak and hide, using the mansion’s hidden doors and secret passageways.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows the clues to follow. A terrifying man in a black cloak 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, where she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must not only face her darkest enemy, but delve into the strange mystery of her own identity.

I was enchanted from the first chapter when Serafina describes hunting rats and living in the basement of the great Biltmore Estate. How could I not? As an adult, I laughed out loud, I was intrigued and turned the pages in eager anticipation of what was to happen next. I loved the character of Serafina - brave and different and quirky.

"If you meet someone face-to-face and they don't hiss at you and bite you, does that mean you're friends?"

I also grew to be entranced by the setting of the story, Biltmore Estate. Beatty's descriptions of it stirred my imagination so that I have put North Carolina as a must-visit destination in the near future.

"Biltmore Estate rose four stories high with its ornately carved gray stone walls. Gargoyles and ancient warriors adorned its dark copper edges.  Chimneys, turrets, and towers formed the spires of its almost Gothic presence. Two giant statues of lions guarded the massive oak doors at the entrance, as if warding off evil spirits...

In the golden light of the setting sun, the mansion really could be startlingly lovely. But as the sun withdrew its brightness behind the surrounding mountains, it cast ominous shadows across the estate, which reminded her of griffins, chimeras and other twisted creatures of the night that were half one thing and half another. The thought of it gave her a shudder. In one moment, the estate was the most beautiful home you had ever seen, but in the next, it was a dark and foreboding haunted castle."

Serafina is an excellent middle grade mystery with a touch of the supernatural. It's intelligent and unique - I was genuinely surprised by the twists and turns of the narrative and my heart beat quickly in quite a few scary scenes. 


  1. I've visited the Biltmore Estate several times, and my favorite time to visit is at Christmas. I want to start this series, and I'm intrigued because this is a real place about a real family (the Vanderbilts). Are you planning to read Book 2 and 3 in the series?

    After your review, I want to read it!

    1. I’m so jealous you’ve visited Biltmore! I am planning to read subsequent books because the first one was so well-written.