I was pretty sure this was a kid's book when I picked it up. All signs pointed to this being a middle-school sort of fantasy story. I uh...I kind of had to reevaluate my age-rating on this one. It's most definitely a YA book - more of an older teen thing, at *least*.
Just taking this book on its premise, it's easy to mistake it for a kid's book. But the villains...oh boy. They were incredibly disturbing, and graphic in their actions. They really didn't seem to fit in at all.
On one hand, you've got a woman and her three teenagers (two teens and one pre-teen, technically) who have had their world shattered over the course of a few days. They move into a house that was left to them, and everything seems too good to be true. There are many, many treasures, a beautiful, exotic green house, and magical creatures that help out with chores. The children find out that their father wasn't quite who they thought he was, and that they've inherited the job of protecting the magic stored inside the house. All well and good.
...and then you get to the part where the villains take the next-door neighbors hostage, and the mother allows her son to enjoy carving up the family's daughter, because he has a thing for killing young girls, which his mother instilled in him at a young age by repeatedly telling him how all girls were hussies, and would just break his heart because nobody would ever love him.
The Dees were a lot of fun, and really creative in their designs. I always enjoy it when authors come up with new, and interesting creatures to put in their stories. It's a nice change from all of the orcs and goblins and elves that a lot of fantasy stories just throw in for cannon fodder.
I also really liked Eleanor. Parents often get left out of "magic teen" fantasy stories like this, but not only was she a stable and strong character, but she was actually told about what was going on, and became an active part of the story. I mean...she didn't have powers like her kids did, but just the fact that they told her about the magic and everything, and brought her into the loop was fascinating to watch. I very rarely see that in this kind of story, so it was a nice change.