Serafina pounces to life in Serafina and the Seven Stars


Noor Fatima

The Serafina series released its latest installment Serafina and the Seven Stars in 2019. Having read two books in the four-book series, The Sidekick staff designer Noor Fatima reviews Serafina and the Seven Stars to see if the book holds up the quality of its predecessors.

Noor Fatima, Graphic designer

Please read this with discretion as it will include spoilers.

The first time I picked up a book in the Serafina series was in middle school. I found a copy of Serafina and the Twisted Staff at the Judith Umbach Library in Calgary and fell in love with the adventurous titular character.

When I heard that Robert Beatty had released a new book a few years ago, I had faith that Beatty would dazzle me with another story of valor and strength.

Serafina and the Seven Stars begins with our main heroine feeling isolated as her best friend Braeden Vanderbilt, the fictitious nephew of the in-universe Vanderbilts, is supposedly sent away to a boarding school in New York.  She feels wary of everything around her, as her past adventures have taught her to be. When guests for the annual hunting party are picked off one-by-one after an incident with a mysterious white deer, Serafina must figure out who, or what, is causing the deaths, all while battling her inner anxieties and discomfort in a mansion without her best friend by her side.

Beatty has a knack for making natural references to his previous books as to catch the reader up to where the characters are now. It would still be a good idea to check out the beginning of the series, but you won’t be completely lost.

Beatty is also great at balancing tension. The Seven Stars made me gasp multiple times from the sudden spiking of stakes right after he makes you feel a little more comfortable.  Every book I’ve read by him has made me stay up until late hours, entranced by the world and wanting to know what happens next. Beatty is skilled at characterization, especially through Serafina herself, who is a good role model for young girls. She is a strong character with agency who is still allowed to be vulnerable and caring.

This book in particular feels a tad more mature than the others in the series as the themes of identity and environmentalism are more mature.

On the topic of identity, Beatty makes quite a few references to culture, especially in relation to the seven stars. I didn’t think about it as much when I began the series, but it made me wonder how the natives fit into this world.

Serafina is a catamount (someone able to transform into a big cat) of a black panther alongside her mountain lion siblings. These species are native to the Americas, and that made me wonder if Beatty interprets this fact as meaning Serafina is Native American. The other books have made reference to the displacement of the Cherokees and this book has a focus on Serafina not feeling at home around the wealth of the mansion and what it means for her to protect these people if they’ve hunted needlessly for the animals of the forest.

The book has its flaws, as any work will have. For instance, Jess is an observant girl who wants to protect the wilderness of Biltmore, yet that doesn’t detract from her being a sharpshooter when handed a musket. Sadly, she doesn’t get much in terms of development despite her potential.   She has a few brief moments where we learn her backstory and personality, but then she disappears until the last third of the book. She doesn’t get nearly enough time to establish herself before the final battle.

Compare this to a previous character, Rowena, who was also the daughter of a previous villain, yet had two books to go from nemesis to protector of the forest and is far more involved in the plot even if it’s not always her choice to be. Braeden also disappears for a while, but he’s been an essential part of every book leading up to this one, so he isn’t as half-baked.

The ending could have been more descriptive of the reactions of those around Serafina to her secret being exposed, her Pa especially. It is implied that he still loves his daughter, but nowhere is it said directly how he feels.It makes me curious to see how her being a known catamount will affect her relationships. The other event I feel contentious about is the love confession between the two main leads, Serafina and Braeden. I felt a bit disappointed that one of the few interesting male-female literary friendships I knew about ended up this way, but I won’t say it doesn’t make at least a little sense. Defeat a few evil sorcerers together, and you’re going to develop a strong bond, so that critique may be a bit personal.

Overall, Serafina and the Seven Stars is a strong book if you are looking for a magical thriller to whisk you away.

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