Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Published: July 14th 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon/ Book Depository
"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 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.
I finished this months ago, because I was lucky enough to get an eARC, but completely forgot to write the review!! I know, bad, bad blogger. I actually thought I had it written but there you go. Anyway, long after finishing this, the characters and story are still in my head. I absolutely loved everything about this amazing book and have already recommended it to loads of people, both adults and kids. It's sufficiently creepy to give adults chills, but not so creepy for kids.
I'm going to start with the setting first because it played a part in the overall creepiness of the book. We have an old grand home set into a mysterious forest. Everyone knows not to venture into it because weird things happen there. But when kids start disappearing, Serafina knows that if she doesn't do something to help then nobody will, because nobody believes Serafina when she tells them what she saw, a terrifying man in a black cloak who seems to swallow his victims. As I said, the setting was perfect, the woods themselves are creepy but add in an old house and it makes it that much better.
Then we have Serafina herself. She is one of the best characters I've read in a while. As it says in the blurb "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." She has to stay away from people in the house because if they found out that she was living there they could throw her and her dad out. Her dad gave her the job of being chief rat catcher for the house and she is good at what she does. She is light on her feet, fast and can fit into the tightest places. She is also brave and willing to help anyone, even if they stare at her because she looks different. I loved her spirit and her tenacity. My heart broke for her because all she wanted was to feel normal and have a friend.
The plot of this was fast paced. I loved the simplicity of it, kids start disappearing and Serafina has to try to help. But it's also not so simple because the author weaves many different elements into it that it captivates and was magnificently written.
In all this was an amazing story and one I can't recommend enough. It's atmospheric, enchanting and captivating and one that I won't forget. It may be a middle grade book but I think people of all ages will enjoy it.