I am so excited that I have FINALLY had a chance to read this book! Let me start by saying that it surpassed my expectations and is one of the most original stories I have read in a long time. I was drawn to this book by two things. First, the cover. It is eye-catchingly beautiful with a silhouette of the young heroine against the night sky over the Biltmore Estate. Second, the Biltmore Estate itself. Having been born and raised in the southeastern United States, I recall a trip to the Biltmore Estate in my younger days and simply being in awe of this “castle.” No child has ever visited Biltmore Estate and not wondered what it would be like to live there, even in the basement, and be able to sneak around and have your run of the place at night. This story sounded like a wonderful adventure and childhood dream come true.
The main character, Serafina, is wonderfully written. She is physically different from others, and the mystery of her family origins as well as of the Man with the Black Cloak kept me quickly turning the pages. I found the main and secondary characters to be well written and full of relatable, human emotions. I also enjoyed Beatty’s writing style. Although the book is written in third person, Beatty used simple language and short sentences, which made me feel as though young Serafina was telling me her story herself.
The only cautionary thing I have to say about this book is that the Man in the Black Cloak is a pretty vivid and frightening character and might be scary for younger readers. So parents, if you’re considering this as a bedtime, chapter-a-night kind of book, read it yourself first just to make sure it won’t cause any bad dreams. The Man in the Black Cloak shows up right away in the story, so you can easily read a couple of chapters and then gauge if you think it will be too scary or not.
Serafina is officially on the list of my most favorite young heroines. Perhaps it is the way she is a little different and is always questioning if she is “normal.” I mean, who can’t relate to feeling that way at least once in our lives, right? Or perhaps it was the way this young girl, the mechanic’s daughter who lives in the basement and peeks in on the lives of those in the big house, reminded me of one Sabrina Fairchild, the chauffer’s daughter played by Audrey Hepburn in one of my favorite films. Regardless, I found Serafina to be a bold and brave character full of integrity. She is a wonderful heroine for young girls and boys. I would recommend this adventure to anyone, especially those who enjoy a touch of magic with their mysteries.
One of my favorite passages from the book: “Nobody knew how to do everything. It wasn’t possible. There wasn’t enough time in the night. But everyone knew something. And everyone was a little different. Some people did one thing. Others did another. It made her think that maybe God intended for them to all fit together, like a puzzle made whole.” – Robert Beatty Serafina and the Black Cloak