A setting similar to Downton Abbey with the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, a girl who is so sneaky many don’t know she exists, and a man who makes children disappear into smoke. This is a dark mystery [with a happy ending] with a brave girl as its protagonist.
The real Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina
Serafina lives in the basement of the Biltmore Estate with her Pa, who is the handyman. The Vanderbilt’s do not know of her existence or that they live in the basement. One night while Serafina is sneaking around as the rat catcher, she witnesses a young girl being chased by a man in a black cloak, who later makes the little girl disappear and come after Serafina herself. As Serafina investigates Clara’s disappearance she looks at the servants, Vanderbilts themselves, and at the guests wondering how to look at people and see if they are honest and how to tell truth from lies.
When her Pa tells her she is not his blood daughter, but a newborn babe he found in the woods, after a creature of dark magic left a mess of babies she realizes the world is not fair to those who do not look like them. Just because she has gold eyes, her spine was twisted, and because her body was deformed, many townspeople and even the nuns did not want to help her Pa save this baby. At such a young age, little Serafina has seen injustice and mystery. When another child goes missing, Serafina and the young Master Braeden being to investigate. She believes she knows which guest is the mysterious man in the black cloak who takes children and she is determined to find them and stop him. There is also a bit of mystery to her own past as well that she discovers.
This is a bit of fantasy and a lot of mystery. There is the power of the cloak and also a shapeshifter involved, but more importantly is the lesson of a little girl who doesn’t quite look like everyone else, but who is good and kind. Good conquers evil; Appearances do not matter; People who are different from one another can be friends.
“Character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose,
but by the battles we are willing to fight”
Serafina realizes that being a part of the world is much better than just observing it. She also thinks multiple times about how being judged on appearance or being treated because she looks differently is not fair, but that it’s character that matters. She and her Pa both do not fit the norm of the Vanderbilt’s guests’ appearance or manners, but they are good people who, in the end, work hard, help others, and are rewarded.
I am a little surprised this is Juvenile (Serafina is 12) due to the scary encounters Serafina has with the man in the black cloak and the whole children disappearing thing. But there is a happy ending so maybe that’s why. Kids who like mystery and a little fantasy will enjoy it ans Serafina is a quality character.
Sequel: Serafina and the Twisted Staff