SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.
But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity…before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.
Reading age: 9+ This book hooked me from the very first page. Serafina is such a brilliant character and I had so much fun exploring Biltmore Estate with her. The corridors at night, the creepy forest, the Man in the Black Cloak, this book is a truly spooky read!
THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS by Chris Priestley
Sam and Lizzie are freezing and hungry on the streets of Victorian London. When Sam asks a wealthy man for some coins, he is rudely turned away. Months of struggle suddenly find their focus, and Sam resolves to kill the man. Huddling in a graveyard for warmth, Sam and Lizzie are horrified to see the earth around one of the tombs begin to shift, shortly followed by the wraithlike figure of a ghostly man. He warns Sam about the future which awaits such a bitter heart, and so begins Sam’s journey led by terrifying spirits through the past, present and future, after which Sam must decide whether to take the man, Scrooge’s, life or not.
Reading age: 9+ A delightfully spooky take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol following two hungry, desperate orphans, Sam and Lizzie. Set in fabulously gothic Victorian London, this book is dark, atmospheric, and crawling with suspense. I loved every second of it.
SHADOWS OF THE SILVER SCREEN by Christopher Edge
A mysterious filmmaker approaches The Penny Dreadful with a proposal to turn Montgomery Flinch’s sinister stories into motion pictures. With Monty installed as the star of his production, filming begins but is plagued by a series of strange and frightening events. As Monty pleads with Penny to help him, she is drawn into the mystery, but soon finds herself trapped in a nightmare penned by her own hand. Can Penny uncover the filmmaker’s dark secret before it’s too late?
Reading age: 10+ This is the second book in Christopher Edge’s Twelve Minutes to Midnight trilogy. It can definitely be read as a standalone, but I’d highly recommend reading the first book too because it’s awesome! Shadows of the Silver Screen will whisk you away to dark, Victorian London, the macabre pages of The Penny Dreadful, and a mysterious and spooky story.
DOLL BONES by Holly Black
My name is Eleanor Kerchner.
You can call me the Queen.
I died in 1895.
Now it’s time to play.
Reading age: 9+ A seriously spooky book, beautifully written, about three friends and the creepiest thing ever: a haunted porcelain doll. Shivers.
MARINA by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
In May 1980, 15-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts…
His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father German Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.
When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.
At the top end of MG, this book is recommended for ages 12 and up, but I’m squeezing it onto this list because it’s amazing! Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing is absolutely incredible. Darkly atmospheric, macabre, lyrical, captivating, beautifully gothic. Savour this.