I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I was thrilled beyond belief when I found out that there was going to be a sequel to Robert Beatty’s middle grade novel Serafina and the Black Cloak. I had been impressed with Beatty’s debut last year, and I wanted to find out what was going to happen to our plucky protagonist next.
It should be noted that Serafina and the Twisted Staff reveals information about the first Serafina book and its infamous black cloak, including the identity of the person wearing the black cloak. This review will skirt around such spoilers.
Serafina and the Twisted Staff begins relatively soon after the events of the first book. Young Serafina struggles to find her place in the world; she is not wild enough to survive in the forest, but she feels too wild to live amongst the civilized folk at the grand Biltmore estate.
Serafina and her friend Braeden thought that by defeating the black cloak, they have banished evil from Biltmore. Unfortunately, they are very wrong. Serafina stumbles upon a terrifying force in the forest that almost defeats her. She is confused about what she experienced, and treats some of the Biltmore guests with suspicion- did they have anything to do with the attack?
In order for Serafina to survive this new evil, she needs to figure out who she is, what she is capable of, and what her place in the world entails. And she needs to do it quickly because the wielder of the twisted staff is waiting for her.
I often share the middle grade ARCs I receive with my daughter. After I read the synopsis for the first Serafina book last year, I knew it would be too scary for her. I asked her about Serafina and the Twisted Staff, and she said she was interested. After our first night of reading, she asked me for our copy of Serafina and the Black Cloak and read it on her own in the middle of reading this book. My daughter loved this book. She kept raising her hand and offering suggestions about what she thought was going to happen next. She really got into the story!
I have so much appreciation for Beatty’s worldbuilding. It’s clear that he has so much love for Biltmore and the surrounding area. He includes so many special details about the grand house. Serafina grows as a character as she struggles to reconcile herself with her environment. This makes her easy to relate to; we might not find ourselves exactly like Serafina, but there is definitely a time when we are too old to be children and too young to be adults. I loved the character development, especially Serafina’s budding friendship with a young maid.
I would absolutely recommend Serafina and the Twisted Staff. As I mentioned, the books really need to be read in order, so please start with Serafina and the Black Cloak. There is some mild scariness, but nothing too terrifying. My nine-year-old daughter can be scared easily, but she did fine reading this book with me. Beatty is a master storyteller, and I loved the new mythology that he brings to the staid Biltmore. I found the vocabulary to be sophisticated, and I’m pleased that my daughter learned several new words like “viscous”. This book kept me guessing as to who could be trusted and who was dangerous. My daughter and I hope that there are more Serafina books in the future!