Couple of months I got an exciting interview. Didn’t get the job – kinda sucked but I walked away with a new book. That book was Serafina and the Black Cloak. Now I’m not one for fantasy books but this one was pretty good. It has dark magic, a delightful main character and a mystery. Here’s what I thought.
“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.
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. He is 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.
So you get the jist. Serafina and her father live in the boiler room. Hiding away from the rich guests who stay in the house. Serafina is a little preternaturally quiet and has eight toes but she’s normal. Kinda. She witnesses a man in a black cloak, children go missing, her and the nephew of the man of the mansion go in search. We all hooked up. Good.
This book is definitely aimed at a younger reader. Basic language and one dimensional characters make this feel, well, young. I liked the premise – dark mysterious character, demon cloak, a terrifying chase. It’s exciting and the beginning of the book really sets down the foundations for a solid read.
The problem is the writing is incredibly dry. The characters lack warmth, and depth. They don’t spring from the pages like they should and although it’s written for a younger audience, it still needs to be rich. Rich with descriptions that make the reader empathise with each of the characters.
The twist wasn’t kept secret for long; dropping hints is good but don’t give the game away. The boss battle was also, disappointing. It was over quickly and without enough aversion. Children aren’t easily fooled and I don’t think the author pulled the wool over the reader’s eye enough.
The author states that he wrote the book to give his daughter’s a strong female character to look up to. To idolise and take confidence from. It’s misleading as Serafina seems to take all her actions from the men around her. Hiding in the basement with her father, putting her life in danger for Braeden. A boy she barely knows and yet she’ll risk her life for him. (cough.)
I think the book had a brilliant premise. It could have been a kick-ass novel that promoted female confidence. Even young readers need something that they can sink their teeth into. They’re not easily fooled and I’m not sure this would have kept their attention. It’s a nice book – but nice doesn’t quite swing it for me.