[I received a copy of this novel through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]
I had quite liked the first book in this series, but I didn't enjoy this one as much. Perhaps because the pacing felt too slow, and the book to long for what it had to say? Either it would have worked better as a shorter read, or it would have deserved to be expanded on, developed more.
The format pretty much follows the same one as in the first book, interspersing the contemporary plot with one involving Edward Kelley again -- this time in Venice, where he's looking for information for the Dannick family, not realising he's about to stumble upon another, dangerous family, as well as meet old acquaintances of the not-so-pleasant kind. The Dannicks in turn play a part in Jack's and Sadie's lives, too, as the two girls set into the cottage of a dead witch and gradually discover what really happened there.
There are very interesting ideas and questions raised here, all the more after reading The Secrets of Life and Death. Jack's and Sadie's fates as "borrowed timers" obviously tie into the whole matter of having to feed on blood to survive, and what it involves and implies: would Jack become a monster by doing so? Would she suffer side effects? Can she, Maggie and Felix afford to let Sadie try this too, even though her health is failing and she's not likely to last as long as Jack has, even with the circles and potion?
However, while those points are indeed raised, not many answers are brought, and there's only slight progress towards the end to explain what may be happening. Sure, this sets the backdrop for a third novel, but considering that not much happens in this one, all things considered, I think such developments could very well have occurred here instead. Not necessarily through Jack herself: more about Felix's research, the people he met (Gina, Ivanova...), would have been nice as well.
The same is worth regarding Sadie. There's something going on with her and the garden at the new cottage, and it was brushed upon rather than given the weight it deserved. It felt like Sadie was mostly meant to be the Damsel in Distress again, and this made her potential role and importance... somewhat less potent.
As for the two families, the one in Venice and the one in England, I didn't find them so convincing as antagonists, and I think this is due to how little we actually see them "in action as villains". There's more telling than showing when it comes to the Dannicks -- the other one seemed a little more convincing... although the bit about them at the end left me wondering how such a change came to be. Details were needed here as well in my opinion, after what the Kelley chapters allowed me to see.
Conclusion: a novel with interesting elements, but too shy in exploiting them.