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02 January, 2018

[Review] Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty

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Series: Serafina #2
Release Date: 12 July, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Genre: Middle Grade/Historical Fiction (1800s)/Mystery
ISBN:  9780451485632
Edition: Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Written: 29 December, 2017
Summary: Serafina’s defeat of the Man in the Black Cloak has set new dangers in motion for both Braeden and Serafina. But at the same time, it’s made it impossible for Serafina to keep hiding in the basement of Biltmore Estate. Once the secret Chief Rat Catcher extraordinaire who explored in the shadows, now she’s thrust into the light-filled world of the upstairs, with its beautifully dressed ladies and gentlemen and their strange customs. Lacking the social graces to fit in with the Vanderbilts and uncertain about what the discovery of her catamount mother means, Serafina finds herself caught between worlds. Where does she belong, the forest or the house?

But when a sinister arrival threatens both the animal and human residents of the estate, Serafina is the only one who can fight back. A dark, gray-bearded man in search of “the Black One” uses a pack of bloodthirsty wolfhounds to attack Serafina. Is he searching for the Black Cloak she destroyed? She only escapes with the help of a strange feral boy who seems to live in the forest.

When other animals at the estate begin lashing out, Serafina learns that a terrible power is taking hold of Biltmore and the surrounding forest. As she delves into the mystery of her past and searches for where she truly belongs, Serafina must find a way to defeat this new evil before it engulfs her beloved home.

See more at Robert Beatty's Website.

Just when we thought that the world of Serafina was safe, a new threat appeared on the horizon. Serafina’s been brought into the more open world of Braeden, officially acknowledged by his aunt and uncle in the house, and being taught etiquette by Mrs. Vanderbilt so she can fit into a society. She’s also reconnected with her mother, a catamount who’s human soul had been trapped in the Black Cloak for over a decade. This reunion has proven frustrating to Serafina however, despite having learned about where she came from and the influences of it on her, she cannot change into a catamount. Her mother told her that she’s become too old to learn, catamount babes learn to shift between forms before they can even walk, though that doesn’t stop her from trying.

Also present is a new threat, a powerful man that no one else seems to see who has a staff that can control animals. This power seems to follow the new young lady at the house as well, Lady Rowena Fox-Pemberton. Lady Rowena is said to be visiting from England while her father travels around the United States, however Serafina finds it hard to trust Lady Rowena and feels a fair amount of jealousy towards her as Braeden begins to spend more time with Rowena than herself. Introduced in this book as well is Waysa, another catamount Serafina’s age of Cherokee heritage. Waysa is on the run from the man with the twisted staff, though he claims the need for revenge upon him as well since he lost his entire family to the staff.

It’s through Waysa that Serafina learns more about the catamount heritage including that young catamounts leave home to find their own territory, there can only be one “Black One” at a time, and that her biological father was the previous Black One. It is later revealed that the “Black One” is the term for a panther among the catamounts. It’s also the term used by Uriah who holds contempt for the catamounts as they foiled his attempts to destroy George Vanderbilt and the Biltmore Estate years earlier.

Beatty’s novel is once again a fantastic mixture of fantasy and historical facts, introducing young readers to George Vanderbilt and the people who built Biltmore Estate while telling his own story. Many details about the grounds are pulled from Beatty’s own trips to the estate and research has clearly been done to protect the integrity of cultures mentioned. The surprising twists and turns of the Twisted Staff will leave readers wanting more as they follow Serafina in her journey of self-discovery, and as she tries to save her home.


I was definitely captivated during the continuation of Serafina’s journey, cheering her on and encouraging her to grow from her mistakes. Though she still had much to learn at the conclusion of the book about interacting with others, I loved the growth of her character and the surprise twist at the end. I was thrilled to be able to hop onto the third book of Serafina’s story shortly after finishing this installment.

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