SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK
SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK
Picks up where Enclave left off. Deuce and the gang now live in Salvation. Salvation is a completely different place from where she grew up. I thought Salvation was also a dark, depressing place. I could argue its even worse since they have traditional gender roles and anyone who is outside that proscribed roll is treated badly.
I did like how Deuce was willing to try to learn and fit in. She was loved and accepted, just as she was, by her foster family. By the end, she did find her place, but events happened and this ended in a cliffhanger. I have to decide if I want to read book 3. It's been dark and depressing and I'm not sure I will be in the right mood for it.
I received a copy from Netgalley.
This book was brilliant. So delightfully different and unexpected. I’d completely forgotten what it was about when I started reading it. It’s an early 1940’s based YA novel, set sometime during the Second World War. Beautifully written and really really unique, the way the fantasy is woven together could almost boarder on magical realism.
The novel tells the story of Aila and her brother Miles, their mother has died and their father is a pilot who has gone to fight in the war. With no other close relatives, the two are shipped off to the small town of Sterling, where their mother grew up and move in with a dear friend of their mom’s, Matilda Cliffton. Her household consists of her husband, Dr Clifton, their son William who is Aila’s age, and a housekeeper named Genevieve. The Clifftons are very nice if formal and clearly wealthy.
Though Aila notices something strange immediately, whilst going through the small town centre, they pass people well known to Mrs Cliffton, give them the cold shoulder. They’re polite, but very frosty and it all seems to do with the fact that Aila’s mom left the town.
In the house Aila notices more strange things and finds out a phenomenon occurs every year something “Disappears”, touch, dreams, reflections. No one really knows how they started, but there are magical remedies called Variants that can recreate these lost things. Aila struggles to make sense of this mystery, at the same time fitting in in a new school and trying to make friends.
All the while there is the underlying hint that her mother may have had something to do with starting The Disappearances. Aila’s mother seems to be the only person who has ever left Sterling and regained the things the Disappearances have taken. Which has caused a great mistrust and dislike amongst the townspeople.
As Aila makes friends and gets to know the people in her class, she learns more about the history of the town and the founding families and the other interconnecting towns in the area. Early in the novel Aila discovers a book of Shakespeare’s works that has notes written by her mother. The Shakespeare connection is brilliant. It’s woven beautifully into the narrative without being too overwhelming.
There’s also a second point of view in alternate chapters from a mysterious man who appears to be looking for his father. It’s not all together clear (or at least not for this reader) of whether this is something happening at the time or something that happened in the past. It all becomes relevant later on in the novel.
The writing is gorgeous and almost lyrical in its tone, it’s completely absorbing and everything is so incredibly described and so so easy to picture. Incredible history and backstory believable as well. Aila was a very likeable, intelligent lead, head on her shoulders, with some recklessness, a good friend and good sister to her little brother Miles. All the characters are brilliant, all fully fleshed out from the good ones to the nasty ones. There’s a great sense of family as well, the adults are not just side characters, they have their own importance in the novel and not just relegated to necessary background characters.
There was nothing about this book that didn’t absolutely love to pieces. I am definitely looking forward to more from this author.
Thank you to Netgalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for approving my request to view the title.
I really wish I could be consistent about writing down even a rough draft of a review as soon as I finish a book, because it starts fading for me as the days pass and my brain fills with other books that I’m reading. Because this book deserved much better than I can give it now. I finished it 3 weeks ago, and all I have left is vague impressions. I urge you to read Obsidian Blue’s excellent review, which introduced me to the book.
I will say that I connected more strongly with it than I expected, as I am generally not a fan of YA and have a pronounced aversion to the first-person-present-tense writing style so prevalent in the genre. The subject matter, being so far outside of my own personal experience, felt real and present to me, as did the thoughts and emotions of Starr and those close to her. The writing is compelling, and the plot kept me absolutely engaged. I appreciated the very realistic outcome of
, and her emotional struggle to get there.
Sadly, I fail both the green bean casserole and the mac-n-cheese tests.
Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Bahni Turpin’s reading is so fantastic that I didn’t even notice the FPPT style for long chunks of story.
I received a copy from Netgalley.
This was a gutwrencher of a book. I could only read it in short spurts because the emotional upheaval was so deep.
The novel tells the story of Juliet and Declan, both of whom are dealing with tough losses, both as results of tragic car accidents. Declan lost his younger sister, Juliet lost her mother.
Declan appears to be your typical YA bad boy. Darkly good looking, grumpy yet possibly a lot smarter than everyone thinks he is. He’s sullied by a bad reputation. Whereas Juliet is a typical high school good girl. She has a run in with Declan in the halls one morning and accidentally spills her coffee on him running to class. However, when a teacher comes in a finds him moaning about it and yelling at her, he’s the one who’s carted off to detention.
Juliet has been spending a lot of time at the cemetery where her mother is buried and leaves her letters. Declan has community service with the grounds keeper at the same cemetery and one day he finds the unsigned letter Juliet has left her mother. And responds to it. Leading to a letter writing exchange without names. Where both parties explore their grief and guilt over their own losses and start to talk to each other in a way they can’t open up to anyone else.
The grief poured into the letters is raw and unflinching, mixing of guilt, anger and responsibility. Juliet and Declan are able to explore feelings they have never admitted to anyone else before, it’s much easier to talk to someone anonymous than admit these feelings their closest friends. The letters eventually become emails.
Yet in real life whenever Juliet and Declan have run-ins with each other, it’s unpleasant. They rub each other the wrong way. Yet keep finding themselves running into each other. He helps her out several times. And sometimes some of the things anonymous Declan says in his letters resonate deeply with Juliet, particularly when he talks about how unfair it is that with a bad reputation that wasn’t his fault he’s blamed automatically even when things aren’t his fault. This makes her start to try to open up.
Both have tough home situations, Juliet’s dad is trying but kind of absent and checked out. Juliet’s mom was a renowned photographer who was often out of the country in dangerous places. War zones and such. There’s a very hard hitting scene at the front of the book where Juliet’s dad asks her if he can sell her mom’s camera equipment to her mother’s agent, and Juliet falls to pieces. It’s tough to read and absolutely heart breaking.
While Declan’s mother is equally passive. His father is in jail after the accident that killed Declan’s sister, and his mom has since gone through a patch of bad relationships and finally married a snotty man who has taken an instant disliking to Declan (bad reputation at fault again) and automatically assumes the worst. They argue a lot and Declan’s mom just won’t step in to defend her son.
Though Declan doesn’t help himself with an equally pissy attitude. Though it’s clear he loves his mom he’s obviously frustrated by her at the same time. His support system comes from his best friend Rev and his family. Who are all awesome.
Juliet and Declan keep finding themselves thrown together and start realising who the person they’re writing to might be. Which shocks both of them. But their feelings for each other are growing deeper and deeper despite their equal reluctance to admit the truth and open up to each other for real. Both find themselves dealing with some home truths in their own home lives which shock them to their cores.
It’s kind of obvious what’s going to happen in the romance department, but even you the way the story is written makes the reader want to get these two together. (Or it certainly did for me).
Beautifully written with some incredible characters. I loved it so much I bought a finished copy as well.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.