- Author: Susan Dennard
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: November 1, 2022
- Publisher: Tor Teen
- Series: The Luminaries #1
Thank you to YA Books Central and Tor Teen for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can see my review at YA Books Central here.
CONTENT WARNING: gore, death, blood, bullying, violence
Hunt or be hunted. Choose wisely.
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. Only the Luminaries, a society of ancient guardians, stand between humanity and the nightmares of the forest that rise each night.
Winnie Wednesday, an exile from the Luminaries, is determined to restore her family’s good name by taking the deadly hunter trials on her sixteenth birthday. But when she turns to her ex-best friend Jay Friday for help, they 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.
Every so often, I like to lose myself in an intriguing, fun, and fast-paced YA fantasy, and this book completely fit that bill. It’s not overly complicated, and the writing allows this to be a quick read that brought back the excitement of early 2000s YA fantasy in the supernatural realm.
The concept of the story is intriguing, with a town surrounded by a forest full of dangerous monsters that appear at night, when nightmares come alive. It’s protected by the Luminaries, a group of people who hunt down these nightmares and keep people safe. But we don’t really learn much about the Luminaries themselves, or their opposing group, the Dianas, other than the fact that the Luminaries are the good guys and the Dianas are the bad guys.
We learn the bare minimum about the Dianas because Winnie’s father was banished from Hemlock Falls for colluding with them. It led to Winnie, her brother Darian, and her mother being exiled from the Luminaries, and forced to the outskirts of society. Winnie and her mother basically live in poverty, and they’re shunned in society. Winnie is subjected to bullying, and her mother went from Lead Hunter of their clan to having to work two menial jobs just to keep them alive. Winnie seems to have a behavior that may be indicative of OCD, or possibly anxiety, and she has limited outlets for support.
The plot basically follows the blurb, with Winnie utilizing a loophole to take the Luminary trials. Once she passes the first trial, everything changes on a dime as she and her family are welcomed back into the fold. The about face is dizzying, and while it was upsetting to see her being bullied, it was just as upsetting to see the same people sweet talking her the very next day.
A less common trope is used here, but one that I really love. It’s the nerdy/outcast girl and hot/loner guy team up, and Winnie and Jay fit the bill perfectly. I would have loved to see a little more romance in the story, but instead there’s a lot of crushing and pining and some angst, which feels more appropriate since this reads more like a younger YA novel despite involving 16 year olds.
There’s a lot of action, and some elements of mystery, but I didn’t quite feel like there was enough resolution in the story, and it left me wanting more. I will absolutely be checking out the sequel when it comes out, and not just because the cover of this is gorgeous. It gave me some of the nostalgia of the YA fantasy I remember from years ago, with diversity that felt natural, enough action to keep my attention fixed, and while I could see some plot twists coming, enough surprised me to make this an intriguing read that I loved.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 9
Categories: Book Review