Serafina and the Black Cloak

Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
Publication Date: July 14th 2015
Publisher: Disney•Hyperion
Pages: 293
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

“Did evil creatures think of themselves as evil? Or did they think they were doing what was right? Was evil something that was in your heart or was it how people viewed you?”

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. – Excerpt from Goodreads

I had very high hopes from this book, I’m not even sure why. I just thought it was going to be one of those gems you stumble onto, sadly it didn’t live up to the hype I had set-up in my head.

For the most part, this book was fairly good. The writing was solid, again for the most part and the lead character was interesting enough. The plot was probably the strongest part of the book – it was intrigued and frightening and had a nice mystery to it. I actually have no idea why every time I picked up this book I couldn’t really get into it. It came close to putting me into a slump. I normally blow through middle-grade novels.

I think my problem with this book is that the narrative was kind of repetitive. I get tired fast when I’m constantly being reminded of certain things throughout the story. Also, the side characters weren’t that interesting and most of the time the side characters really make or break the book for me. There were times I was really invested in the story but then it would slow down again and it would lose my attention. Last thing that really bothered me was that the author didn’t keep the protagonist very consistent. Her way of talking changed several times. It was like he couldn’t decided if she was educated or not and it showed. It made for some really awkward exchanges.

I would strongly say this book is for older middle-grade readers or children who do not scare easy. There is some intense violence and graphic details. The cloaked figure has bloodied hands, steals children in the night and whispers scary things while he stalks them. That might be too intense for an eight year old. When I was little I ate up scary books so this probably would’ve been a good fit when I was much younger. I still love a dark middle-grade novel because I feel like the higher the stakes for the characters, the more likely you will be drawn into the story and root for the heroes.

I think this book is worth looking into if the plot interests you. It’s far from a horrible book, I just couldn’t fall in love with this tale. I did buy the second book at the same time I bought the first book (that is how much faith I had in this one) so I will likely give the second book a go. I’m hoping there will be less repeating and more focusing on the actual tale.

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