Serafina and the Black Cloak

September 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

serafinaSerafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty


I lived in and around Asheville, NC for several years in my twenties, so when I first heard about Serafina and the Black Cloak, I figured it would be a matter of time before I read it. Set at the Biltmore Estate during the turn of the century and having a supernatural angle, the story seemed like it would hit all of my interests, and I was surprised it took me a few years to get to it. I think I could have waited a lot longer and it wouldn’t have bothered me.

The book isn’t bad, necessarily — it flows well, and has compelling characters — but it feels clunky. It’s clearly a juvenile book, since it lacks some subtlety in its storytelling. The characters and themes are drawn with broad strokes, and the plot feels more like it’s just loping along from one point to another instead of feeling developed and fleshed out. Plus, the big secret about Serafina becomes obvious at about the quarter-length point of the book, but Beatty doesn’t come out and tell us directly about it until near the end. I’ve heard “But it’s a kids’ book” as a defense, but it’s hard to claim that anymore, when the Harry Potter series raised the bar for how complex and subtle a juvenile book can be.

Beatty’s narrative is also a bit awkward in places, particularly in his similes. When he goes with the story and lets the plot unfold on its own, it’s fine, but then he throws in something like “Her corset felt like Satan’s bony hand…”, and the whole thing falls apart. I think authors are trying so hard not to write cliches that they come up with something so ridiculous that it doesn’t make sense, and pulls the reader right out of the story. Nick Cutter’s The Troop was another story that did that, though admittedly, Black Cloak isn’t that bad.

Serafina and the Black Cloak is the first in a trilogy, and while I enjoyed how Beatty wrapped up the characters in this story, I don’t feel the need to read the rest of the series. For one, now that Serafina’s secret (such as it is) has been revealed, that mystery won’t carry the story any more. For another, the story simply doesn’t wow me enough to make me want to continue. I’m somewhat curious to see how some of the relationships develop over the series, but I’d be satisfied just to read a summary of the next two books to see how they’re resolved.

Started: August 27, 2018
Finished: August 29, 2018

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