5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

Series: The Luminaries #1

From Susan Dennard, the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchlands series, comes a haunting and high-octane contemporary fantasy, about the magic it takes to face your fears in a nightmare-filled forest, and the mettle required to face the secrets hiding in the dark corners of your own family.

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you. 

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. 

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.

Overall Recommendation

The Luminaries sets a new secret society within our world that guards humankind from nightmarish creatures lurking in the forests at night. Beautiful worldbuilding and mystery subplots keep the momentum going that I couldn’t put this book down at all. The ending was abrupt and most things were not concluded in a satisfactory manner, but this definitely makes me all the more excited for what’s to come in the next book.

**The Luminaries comes out November 1, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

“That’s why we’re called the Luminaries, Winnie: we are lanterns the forest can never snuff out.”

Oh boy, I was so immersed in the world of The Luminaries. While the concept may seem simple to some, it was just enough to be super fascinating. I had to read this one as fast as possible to get to the very end!

In a world where there are sleeping spirits that manifest real life nightmares each night in their dreams, a secret international society called the Luminaries are tasked to keep the general human society safe from such creatures. Broken into 7 clans, each one named after each day of the week, they each play an integral role in the functioning of the society and have a specific culture/motto they live by. I absolutely adored this world’s set up and felt it was so incorporated into the characters we’re introduced to.

Winnie Wednesday, of the Wednesday clan, was a fierce protagonist. She yearned to be a hunter her whole life, but due to transgressions of her father, a traitor in a group called the Dianas, her family was outcasted. Honestly, I was so angry on their behalf at the way the clans treated them for something that wasn’t their fault. The dad made his choices, but being duped by him should be punishment enough yet they isolated and cast them out of all Luminaries activities.

With that setting, I will say the story moved quickly. Susan Dennard has always been good at crafting stories, but her imagination with the nightmares and this society was superb. We follow Winnie’s attempts to go through the three trials to become a Hunter. In the meantime, there were a few mysteries lingering as subplots: something was happening in the forest with a new nightmare that no one else saw but Winnie, something suspicious about the nature of her dad’s deception, and a werewolf that perhaps could leave the forest even when dawn rose.

There’s also romance here, although a little more subtle than I expected. The tension was there so that made everything beautiful with the slow burn. Not so much a typical bad boy, Jay Friday was a bit of a loner who chose to stick to himself although people at school would love to get to know him better if he only gave them the chance. An excellent Hunter, he was the obvious choice for Winnie to train under. Their past history and second chance for something more was great to follow.

While there were plenty of things I enjoyed, I will say there are certain things that weren’t the best, namely the ending. All those mystery subplots I mentioned? None were actually resolved in a way that felt satisfying at all. I flipped the page and there was the Acknowledgements. I know there’s a sequel but I wish more had actually happened in this first book besides the foundation. It’s not a big deal for me since I loved everything that led to the end, but I know this may bother some people.

Written in Dennard’s signature creativity and well-thought out plotting, The Luminaries will delight both old and new readers alike.


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