I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of the novel Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty in exchange for this review. This book is the sequel to Serafina and the Black Cloak . I enjoyed both books very much and think that this could be the start of an exciting series that my students will enjoy.
Serafina and the Black Cloak would be a great pick for anyone who loves historical fiction mixed with fantasy and thriller stories. Serafina is an odd twelve-year-old girl who has spent her entire life living with her father in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Nobody in the Vanderbilt's house knows that their maintenance man and his daughter live there. Serafina, who enjoys spending time catching rats and mice while everyone else sleeps at night, becomes aware of an evil creature in a black cloak that is connected to the disappearance of several youngsters in the mansion. She befriends the Vanderbilt's nephew, Braeden, in her quest to put an end to the scary nightmare gripping this household. She also learns more about the source of her own peculiar abilities.
This sequel picks up right where the first book ends. While the author does a good job of providing the necessary background information for readers unfamiliar with the characters and circumstances, I would still recommend reading Serafina and the Black Cloak first. As with most popular series, reading the books in order just helps readers get the full story - all of the juicy details!
I love the way the author has taken the character development that started in Book 1, and takes it deeper. Serafina, while no longer required to hide in the shadows of Biltmore Estate, still struggles to figure out in which world she belongs: Biltmore Estate with her pa and her new friends or the forest with her mother and family. She wants both, but also has a hard time fitting in either place.
The author also continues the story and the themes from the first book. In the forest, near her mother's den, is a statue of a stone angel, with the inscription: "Our character isn't defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight." The dark forces are coming to Biltmore Estate, and Serafina and her "kith and kin" are realizing that it's useless to try to run away from them.
There is plenty of mystery, action and suspense to keep readers engaged. As in the first book, there is quite a bit of graphic violence, especially animal attacks. This book would be best for mature middle-grade readers. I think this series would be enjoyed by quite a few of my fifth grade students.
Serafina and the Twisted Staff Book Trailer
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 12th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion