"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 Biltmore Estate. There's plenty to explore in her grand home, but 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 lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to sneak and hide.
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.
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Dances around in age-approoriateness
I was personally intrigued because I grew up/still live nearby the Biltmore Estate, and it has been a place I hold dear to my heart my whole life. It was exciting to listen to the book and know which room they were in, or what was entirely made up.
I also enjoyed moments when the author would delve into Serafina's deeper, emotional thoughts and draw out the fact that this girl (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT) is not quite normal and has an unusual way of thinking, seeing, and reacting to the world. It was nice to see a character built up to believably embody what the author claims her to be, instead of just sticking a supernatural label on a character who behaves and thinks like an entirely average human being.
I enjoyed how the author tied some local historical roots to the supernatural aspect of the story.
I'm 28, and I went into this book realizing it was a YA novel. That said, I did feel that there were some mature themes/gritty moments that would be scary or have a shocking effect on young kids. I would think kids of all ages would be intrigued by this book, but under age 10 it might be a little much at times. Not that I didn't read a few grizzly scenes in books at a young age, but I'll say that they did leave an impression in a not entirely good way.
Would be twice as good if half as long. Cute story bad writing.