"Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul."
Originally published in July 2015 in the US by Disney-Hyperion
Published in May 2016 in UK by Egmont
304 pages in paperback
Summary courtesy of Barnes and Noble
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.
You can see from the charming cover that this was bestseller in the States – and rightly so. There are American Gothic scares, a delicate hint of romance and as much action as you could wish for in this historical fantasy. Thus the 304 pages don’t overwhelm the involved reader.
The setting is key – a real estate in North Carolina you can visit. To get a glimpse of the house – and a great sense of the novel - watch Disney’s book trailer.
What I loved:
- Serafina’s warm relationship with her adoptive Pa
- some demanding yet interesting language – no talking down to kids here
- characters with courage and ingenuity overcoming difficult circumstances
- a resourceful heroine and a sympathetic boy character
- real historical characters involved (the Vanderbilts)
- chills balanced with humour and adventure
- friendship between two children from very different backgrounds
What I wished for
- a name for the cover artist
- that Serafina was an actual cat as I thought at first – I still like that idea!
- a sequel to explain some unfinished mysteries – and there is one coming…
Who will love this book?
A good reader from around eight years old who enjoys Cornelia Funke, maybe has read a few old Helen Cresswells or even Leon Garfield. They’ll like mystery and some good old-fashioned frights, a fabulous setting and brave investigative children at the heart of the adventures. Who wouldn’t?
(Voted No. 1 in the Middle Grade category on Good Reads, 2015)
K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed and breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You'd be welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.