Serafina and the Twisted Staff

384p. (Serafina: Bk. 2). Disney-Hyperion. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484775035. POP
Gr 5–7—Serafina's tale picks up just three weeks after the defeat of "the man in the black cloak." Serafina would like to settle into a comfortable existence at Biltmore House as Chief Rat Catcher, especially now that the Vanderbilts have accepted her role in their household. She wants to please her father and spend time with her best friend, Braeden. Her plans are thwarted when Lady Rowena Fox-Pemberton visits the estate. Serafina cannot stand Rowena's snooty ways but is pleasantly surprised when the Lady bravely helps out when mysterious events recur at Biltmore. Many new characters are introduced, such as Mr. Grathan, a guest of Mr. Vanderbilt claiming to be a detective, and Essie, a helpful maid. Serafina's backstory is fleshed out, and readers will relish learning more about her strange origins, including the identity of her father. As in the first novel, the narrative gracefully blends the majestic history of Biltmore House with the ethereal beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains along with the deep-rooted superstition of mountain lore. Serafina's relationship with her catamount mother plays a stronger role this time. The characterization is solid, and the powerful imagery that made the first installment such a success is more consistent here. Readers who enjoyed the first novel will not be disappointed in this continuation and will anxiously await the next exciting adventure.
VERDICT Eerie gothic imagery, a ferociously scrappy heroine, and an elegant setting combine seamlessly to create a captivating mystery that will be well received by fans.

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