On My Bookshelf: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

January 20, 2020

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is a cross between fantasy and mystery/thriller. Despite a slow start, you'll be drawn into the mystery surrounding who the Man in the Black Cloak might be and where he might strike next. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: "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 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 mysterious 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.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is a cross between fantasy and mystery/thriller. Despite a slow start, you'll be drawn into the mystery surrounding who the Man in the Black Cloak might be and where he might strike next. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Why I liked it: Serafina and the Black Cloak was a slow start for me, particularly because all of the talk about catching rats creeped me out. Fantasy isn't my favorite genre and because this is a cross between fantasy and mystery/thriller, this was a bit stranger than my usual reads. Eventually I was drawn into the mystery surrounding who the Man in the Black Cloak might be and where he might strike next.

Perhaps because I was listening to the book via audiobook rather than reading it, at times I found Serafina to be self-centered and hung up on her past. In fairness, she doesn't have a pretty amazing origin story, part of which she learns from her "father" and part of which she learns from her mother, a catamount (a woman who can take the form of a mountain lion). There were also parts of the novel where the passage of time and the occurrence of events didn't seem to match up realistically.

Classroom application: Serafina and the Black Cloak is the first book in a series (the fourth installment was released July 2019) that I would recommend for middle school. There is some violence, but mostly of the fantastical kind.

After reading, students could research the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate (both real!) and  mythological creatures like the catamount. Discussions could also be held about the difference between being an extrovert or an introvert (like Brayden) and the misconceptions about these personality types, i.e. introverts are often thought to be aloof.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Serafina and the Black Cloak for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is a cross between fantasy and mystery/thriller. Despite a slow start, you'll be drawn into the mystery surrounding who the Man in the Black Cloak might be and where he might strike next. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

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1 comments

  1. I read Serafina and the Black Cloak with my middle schoolers two years ago, and recently started reading it again. The kids are loving it. There is a wonderful teaching guide to accompany the book!

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