So...this book was just okay. I debated between 2 and 3 stars. It was a page turner and it had some creative moments (although the whole "I'm seeing the dead" instantly made me think of Sixth Sense). I would put it as equivalent to a Steven King book..except (and they are a few big exceptions).
The language was too overdone. Irwin was trying so hard to be "poetic" or literary or something, but his book is really just a thriller. I know, I know I like to throw around the phrase "masturbatory language" but really: "Nicholas got inside and twisted the car alive. The bones of a city don't change. Perhaps its skin grows tight or flaccid as suburbs grow fashionable of become declassee; crow's feet spread from pockets--new streets, new arteries into fresh corpulence. But the skeleton of its founding roads, the blood of its river, the skull of the low mountain that looms over it with its thorny crown of television towers like its own blinking Calvary...these things hadn't changed." Blechh. It's not good writing, it's Irwin trying to be cute and clever. This was all over the place. Irwin just likes to over-describe: "Above the surf-like rataplan on the roof, Nicholas could hear the house ticking around them as it cooled. He felt his mother's eyes crawling over his face." Stephen King at least has the decency to simply tell a story; he doesn't try to go all "literary" and annoy the reader.
On the other hand, Irwin's story is an attempt at something beyond just good and evil. One reason I stopped reading Stephen King about the age of 16 is that his books are such blatant religious allegories. They might be creative and compelling but they always boil down to good vs. evil. Irwin here attempts to move beyond this. The main character is a witch (in the traditional sense) and she is clearly evil; however, she sponsors a church and she believes that she is protecting the woods and working for the Green Man (who in the end is not really evil, just a force of nature and might in fact be the same as the Christian God). And so, credit to Irwin for the shades of grey (although..if I may throw out a bad pun, the sex scenes were less than satisfying).
Unfortunately, the ending was just poorly constructed. Again, Irwin is striving for middle ground and ambiguity; clearly he represents the Green Man in the end as a God but we are left to determine on our own whether he is good or evil or just is. My beef is not with that; I found it unbelievable that Rowena is his faithful servant who believes that she has been protecting the forest for him for years, but he quickly and eagerly switches sides as soon as Nicholas cuts his arm and asks? Or maybe then, she is not his servant but the Green Man (in fact) is just compelled to behave according to what the spells dictate (just like Nicholas when he is about to attack Hannah)? But then, who really holds any power? See..it is a circular problem, either Rowena is worshiping Green Man and helping him and occasionally he gives her a bone (like granting her wish to send Nicholas home) OR he is a servant of the spells in which case she didn't really need to protect his woods for years, she could have just lived her life as she wanted. Overall it just felt inconsistent and nonsensical. I was also very annoyed with the "gotcha" last line..are we to believe that Green Man has chosen his next servant? If so, then why oh why do they want Nicholas so badly? It just felt poorly constructed.
Overall it was quick and easy and slightly entertaining, but I don't really have a strong recommendations.