Going into this book, I was ready for a new take on Hansel and Gretel that had some sort of tie-in to Sisters Red. What I got, however, was quite a bit more than that. I'll try not to include many spoilers, but there are a couple minor ones. And I apologize for anything that might be a little confusing... read the book and you'll understand!
I really enjoyed that Jackson Pearce changed up the style of the novel from Sisters Red and didn't write it from two different perspectives. Although it worked in Sisters Red, I really don't think it would have worked as well here. I think Ansel was less three dimensional than Gretchen, and having the entire story told from her viewpoint really made everything come together much more than I think it otherwise would have. She was still able to capture the sibling relationship very well though, and I think that says a lot for Pearce - she can write in many different ways but still get the same point across.
The way that the two worlds were tied together was done very well, and even though I figured it out pretty early on, I thought that it the reveal to Gretchen was appropriate. Like "oh hey, I'm not afraid of the woods anymore!.... well crap. There are still scary things out here." And then having her face her fears and confront them... I just thought it was all done well. Probably even better than Sisters Red. Actually, definitely better than Sisters Red.
I was wondering how Pearce would tie the two novels together (apart from the Fenris), and I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of a Reynolds boy. As soon as Samuel mentioned his brothers and father being woodsmen and each having specific traits, I figured he was Silas' brother. And of course, once I realized that Silas' last name was also Reynolds, I knew he had to be. So that was pretty cool.
Sophia was the most interesting character to me though. The way Pearce makes her out to be the traditional sweet-making witch of Hansel and Gretel mixed with a new Fenris related twist made me both like her and fear her. I was very intrigued by her back story until the moment it was revealed, and I appreciated the way Pearce started to set up Fathomless with the explanation of why Sophia does the things she does.
All around, I would definitely say Pearce did a much better job with Sweetly than with Sisters Red. So, 4/5 on this novel. And a recommendation to anyone and everyone who read Sisters Red. Which, if you haven't and you like modern re-tellings of classic fairy tales, I suggest you read. And then go pick up this one.