Earlier this year my wife and I returned to Asheville—where we go as often as we can—and spent a few days at The Grove Park Inn—where we honeymooned almost 25 years ago—and visited once again the Biltmore House—where we’ve been a gazillion times before! While in one of the bookstores at Biltmore I noticed a series of books that seemed to be aimed at young adults and that were being displayed prominently. Neither my wife nor I had ever heard of these books. I looked it over and thought it was interesting then put it back so we could do the tour. The next day we were in a Barnes & Noble in Asheville and saw another prominent display for these books along with a series of posters on the windows promoting them along with a flatscreen broadcasting on loop a trailer for one of the volumes and decided to pick up the first volume, Serafina and the Black Cloak. That night, while sitting in front of one of the fire places at The Grove Park, I read aloud 63 pages to Roni. We were both charmed and intrigued by this wonderfully delightful and odd story. What is more, the fact that the story is set in and around the Biltmore House really made it come alive for us. It was so much fun being able to stop and say, “We know where that is!” or “I can picture that perfectly in my mind.” Last night we finished the book (having had a number of delays over the last many weeks).
The story (and series of books) is about a twelve-year-old girl named Serafina who lives, secretly, in the basement of the Biltmore with her father who is an employee on the estate tasked primarily with keeping the Dynamo running that provides electricity for the house. The Vanderbilts are unaware that Serafina and her dad live in the basement or that Serafina sneaks around the house at night catching rats, something that she is strangely good at! Anyway, something keeps happening to the Dynamo and, in the darkness that results, something even worse keeps happening in the house! The children of the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt are going missing, disappearing, Serafina discovers, in the folds of an ominous black cloak being worn by a mysterious and terrifying person of great malice and evil and strength. Serafina befriends the Vanderbilt’s nephew, Braeden, and together they determine to solve the mystery of the black cloak and stop the figure from inflicting any more harm. Along the way, Serafina begins to learn more about her own origins, about who and what she is!
I best not say anything else about the story, but I did just want to say that as lovers of good tales my wife and I really enjoyed this story and we will begin the next volume soon. Some of the scenes would be too much for little kids, I would think, but young people in general should really enjoy these stories and, judging by the success of them and talks of possible movies to come, are enjoying these stories!
This is fun, fun stuff!
So, yeah, Roni and are all in! Long live Serafina, the guardian of Biltmore!