Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Recommended for: 5th-7th grade horror and fantasy fans
Pages: 293 pp
Call Number/Link: J Fiction Beatty, R.
Synopsis: In 1899, a twelve-year-old rat catcher on North Carolina’s Biltmore estate teams up with the estate owner’s young nephew to battle a great evil and, in the process, unlocks the puzzle of her past.
I was lured in by the extensive advertising on facebook, and I watched the book trailer here. It sounded like a great read for a fantasy/historical fan such as myself. This book has plenty of creepy action, interesting historical context (did you know that Biltmore Estate is a real place? That a Vanderbilt built?), and mysterious happenings and people. There is moral ambiguity and unknown origins and a whole lot going on on many levels. There is a fantasy element that is tough to jive with the historical and horror elements. What I didn’t expect was the level of intensity in some of the scenes. This book is solidly juvenile, with a 12 year old protagonist and a juvenile feel to the book–but the scary scenes were truly scary and horrifying. I always use the book The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein if I want someone to truly be scared, and this book is on level with that book–maybe a bit more horrifying. There are children pleading for their lives and long action sequences where a bad guy is stalking children. This is going to be fine for a bunch of kids, but you will want to gauge your audience before recommending it to the tenderhearted–I would not want my sheltered children to be reading it until maybe 5th grade. A great book that I will recommend.