I would start by saying that if you haven't read the first book you may struggle a little to make sense of what's happening as the story is carrying on from there. Having said that I couldn't remember all the details of what happened in the first story and I still very much enjoyed this one and the main plot points are covered in the first few pages which are quite exposition heavy. However, opening with Nolan Sometimes plea for help is an intriguing start.
The things I really liked about the story. The simultaneous plot lines of what is happening to Nolan and Willow searching for him worked well especially in the first half of the book. It keeps you thinking - How on Earth can Willow solve this when she has so little to go on.
The exploration of grief and loss is integral to the plot and was really well done - how sometimes the feelings can creep up on you and punch you in the chest with their intensity. I thought how at the beginning of the story, Willow's family not understanding or coping very well with what's happening to Willow was a realistic way that family's behave. How they deal in different ways with events and don't always handle situations as well as they could, compounded by the fact that Willow has different memories of what happened.That they doubt her, is what Willow finds devastating.
The illustrations are brilliant and bring the story to life - the few double page illustrations are well chosen allowing us to see Holloway's boat or the topiary children for example.
Favourite line - "...magic never really dies - it simply waits until we're ready for it."
The writing often foreshadows what is going to happen, sometimes this is a little heavy handed. The age range for the book is 8+, so I think this provides a good example of how storytelling can work. I am still convinced that Holloway's eye is important beyond what was mentioned in this book.
I think everything that's in the story is there for a reason with some good examples of when you should listen to your inner voice which of course Willow doesn't do. The line in Chapter 5 -
'"Come on in child," said the witch.'
First of all Willow thinks of her as "the witch" even though she knows her name.Secondly I'm not sure any good ever came of following someone into a building when they've invited you in by saying "Come on in child," you know it's going to end badly.
My only niggle is that the end feels rushed. The story is 291 pages and on page 235 the plot accelerates with things happening one after the other and it feels more like a series of events that have to happen to get the story finished. I wonder if the author had been allowed 350 pages if that extra 50 pages could have allowed the end of the story a bit more breathing room to pack everything in.
Overall - very good second book in a continuing series, looking forward to book 3.