Well I got on a mini-magical realism kick and finished this book too. I read the first book in this series back in 2015. I gave that one (The Language of Spells) 3 stars, and the sequel to that is a strong three stars too. I think the main issue is that nothing really grabbed me in this one. I thought following both Gwen and Katie didn't really work this time. Gwen is dealing with trying to get pregnant and Katie is hell-bent on figuring out her Harper power. Katie is naive as anything for most of the book and I thought the ending was just so-so.
It's been 7 years since the events in the last book. Katie is now 21 years old and trying to still learn from Gwen so she can come into her Harper powers. Katie is a waitress at a private home turned hotel and is hoping that eventually she will be able to be like Gwen (wise woman that everyone seeks out in the village). When Katie finds a dead body her whole world gets turned upside down and she starts to have birds and ghosts talk to her. Gwen is troubled and hopes that there is someway to shut off Katie's powers since talking to ghosts is not a power anyone wants.
Katie is naive. She ends up liking a bad boy (with honestly no redeeming qualities) and does joint investigations with him as well as trying to figure out things solo. Even though Katie is warned her powers could be dangerous she doesn't care because she doesn't want to be seen as a kid and wants to be special and not ordinary like her mother. There was a lot going on there that I wish I had felt was resolved. I don't see what the big deal would be if Katie didn't have magical powers. And I have to say her "practicing" with Gwen didn't seem to be much of anything. I recall in book number one it didn't make much sense how the magic in this world works and it still doesn't.
We unfortunately don't get too spend much time with Gwen. Gwen is dealing with not being able to get pregnant and no spells or potions are helping. She is feeling lost and vulnerable. Her and her now husband Cam barely feel present in this one. Merely there to prop up Gwen.
The secondary characters are okay, just needed more developing. I was interested when I heard there were more witch families and how they try not to settle near each other cause things would happen. I wish that Painter had explored that more.
The writing was okay, but the flow was off. I found myself getting bored and wanting the story to hurry up and finish already since it was a lot of Katie investigating, the guy she liked being "charming" and then her being mad that things were not working out how she wanted them.
The ending was interesting, we get to know a bit more about Katie's powers. But everything seemed a little too pat when we found out how much it could be costing Katie to use magic.
I haven't seen a third book in this series appears, so am assuming that this is the final book.