“Never go into the deep parts of 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 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.
This was our first novel we read for our Book Club at the middle school where I teach. I picked this one because my mom, the librarian, highly recommended it and so did my best friend who taught 5th grade last year.
I introduced the book and the book club by finding the book trailer online and showing it to my classes one day. We just got a green screen at our school so I’m really excited about them being able to make their own book trailers! They LOVED the trailer. I was a little apprehensive at first because I thought the book looked and sounded a girly and that the boys would lose interest right away after hearing the title. But then I showed them the trailer and they went nuts over it! Middle schoolers really like creepy books for some reason! When I polled the book club at our first meeting most of them put that they enjoyed Horror and Sci-Fi books better than any other genres.
I completed the book last night. I was trying to stay ahead and have questions ready for discussion! I absolutely loved the setting of the book. It’s set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina back when George Vanderbilt built the estate. It talks about how they had electricity back then and I think that’s going to be a great talking point for book club because people didn’t really have electricity in private homes until the 1930’s, not the late 1800’s.
I also thought Serafina’s heritage was quite interesting. I think it’s the first story I’ve ever read or even heard of about a “catamount”. It was different than the usual werewolf trend. My favorite parts of the book were about all the animals! I loved Gidean, Braeden’s doberman, the baby mountain lions, and the momma mountain lion. *wink wink*
I’m hoping Braeden will be more in the next book. I liked his character. And I want to know more about him! And I’m pretty sure there’s going to be more to Mr. Vanderbilt, his uncle. Something just feels a little off. Maybe I feel that way because Serafina was suspicious of him in the beginning. And why did he have all those tunnels built? There has to be a reason, right? Or maybe he just wanted a super cool house.
I think I will buy the next book Serafina and the Twisted Staff. I want to keep both copies in my classroom library since all of my kiddos are loving it!
After reading this book I want to take a road trip to North Carolina to visit the Biltmore. You can still do tours there! And from what I hear they do all kinds of tours. They have a servants wing tour, a roof tour, a basement tour, etc. The Vanderbilt family actually stays in the estate every year for Christmas as a tradition. My in-laws live on the East Coast in Maryland and Virginia and they vacation in North Carolina on the beach every summer. We’ll juts have to take a little detour for the day and then come back!
We had 40 kids turn out for our first book club meeting! Isn’t that awesome? And that was after we had just talked to the 7th graders about it. The 8th graders will get more info about it this week during their library time so maybe we will have more at the next meeting.