Serafina and the Twisted Staff: Serafina Book 2

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Serafina and the Twisted Staff:  Serafina Book 2 Book Poster Image
Spooky mystery sequel keeps up thrills and chills.

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Kids say

age 9+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Author's note explains historical accuracy and some liberties taken with the Biltmore estate and the historic figures living there in 1899, landscape architect Olmstead's interest in forest conservation, and the Vanderbilt family's role in creating the first national forest. The note also encourage readers to explore the Biltmore estate and surrounding countryside if they can.

Positive Messages

Don't give up on your family; families stick together and help each other out no matter what. You can't run away from your problems. Picture clearly who or what you want to be, and you'll find a way. "Stay bold," meaning take action, even if you're scared. You can be many things, even things that are opposites, like being someone who loves to roam outdoors and who loves the comforts of home.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Serafina is strong, smart, and brave. She learns that she can't run away from her problems and knows that she won't be happy if she turns her back on friends and family even when it would be easier and safer to do so. She caused a death in the past, kills a small bird, and while in animal form kills another person, also in animal form. Family and friends are loyal and caring. The Vanderbilts are generous with and respectful of their staff members and the mountain folk who live on and near their estate.

Violence & Scariness

Fantasy violence involves fights with animals that attack viciously because they're enchanted. Bites, scratches, kicks, punches, and fangs sinking in are mentioned; pain is sometimes described briefly. Blood is mentioned a few times. Main characters frequently in peril. Serafina kills a villain while they're both in animal form and feels it's morally justified to defeat her enemy once and for all. In human form she kills a chimney swift thinking it's a bat or rodent. Lots of creepy, spooky, supernatural atmosphere. Animals are trapped and caged by the villain; there's a safe resolution.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Serafina and the Twisted Staff is the sequel to Serafina and the Black Cloak. Set in North Carolina in 1899, the story picks up three weeks after the events in Book 1. You don't need to read the first book to follow the story here; the past is explained, and even though the plot springboards off the first book, it's separate enough to follow on its own. The overall atmosphere is very creepy. The characters are frequently in peril and there are a lot of fantasy-violence fights with animals that attack viciously because they're bewitched. Blood and pain from injuries are occasionally mentioned but not described in detail. Serafina kills a villain while they're both in animal form. Some friendly and sympathetic forest animals are caged and in peril, with a safe resolution. It's mentioned that men retire to the smoking room in the mansion to smoke cigars. Adults drink champagne at a party. Serafina, her family, and friends are good role models for loyalty and bravery, and overall messages are positive about the importance of family and accepting yourself for who you are.

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Kid, 11 years old March 28, 2017

Wonderful Sequel!

You often think of the sequel as being worse than the first book. Think again with this series! This is a great follow-up. The introduction of Rowena and the vi... Continue reading

What's the story?

SERAFINA AND THE TWISTED STAFF picks up three weeks after the death of the man in the black cloak. During her nighttime rambles, Serafina notices that many animals are leaving the forest surrounding the Biltmore estate where she lives. A terrible evil is on the way and may in fact already be working its way inside the Biltmore mansion itself. Now that everyone knows about her and she's able to move freely about the mansion, she's determined to find out what the mysterious Detective Grathan has to do with the animals that have been swarming and attacking, the identity of the feral boy who saved her life, and hopefully even the truth about why her mother insists she'll be safe at Biltmore.

Is it any good?

Big-kid and tween fans of the supernatural will enjoy the continuing chills and excitement of Serafina's adventures, especially those who like a bit of fantasy mixed with thrilling mystery. Although it's a sequel, Serafina and the Twisted Staff stands well on its own and can easily be followed and understood if you haven't read the first book. Author Robert Beatty's excellent descriptions bring the mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere of the Carolina mountains to life.

Some of the dialogue and descriptions of action are a little clunky, but readers in the target age group probably won't mind and will be able to pick up the clues and follow the action sequences easily. The finish is exciting and satisfying but leaves a tiny door open for further mystery and adventure that fans would no doubt be eager to read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • How scary is Serafina and the Twisted Staff? Were there any parts that were too scary? What makes you feel better when something scares you?

  • Did you read Serafina and the Black Cloak? Did you like this book as much? Why, or why not?

  • Serafina learns that she can be wild sometimes and tame sometimes and that she doesn't have to choose only one way to be. Do you think she's right? Are there things you like that seem like opposites? 

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