This exciting, sometimes violent fantasy strikes a terrific balance between page-turning action and thoughtful, heartfelt emotion that will appeal to a broad audience. Willa of the Woods offers something for lovers of nature, animals, magical fantasy, dystopia, action, and adventure. Characters, especially Willa, are well developed, admirable, and relatable. Readers of the Serafina books will enjoy it, too. It's a lot less spooky, although evil, darkness, and danger have to be confronted. It's equally steeped in, and evocative of, the Great Smoky Mountains, and fosters a sense of adventure, wonder, awe, and even reverence for the natural world.
The pacing flags a bit in the middle, and some of the environmental messages seem a bit heavy-handed. It's best for big kids and up who are ready for frights, chills, direct but non-gory descriptions of violence, and even some heartbreak. The ending is satisfying while leaving room for more of Willa's adventures.