The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

The Luminaries by Susan Dennard
Narrator: Caitlin Davies
Series: The Luminaries #1
Published by Tor Teen on November 1, 2022
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 9h 45m
Pages: 294
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble// BookBub
Add to: Goodreads // StoryGraph

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.An Instant New York Times BestsellerA Barnes & Noble YA Book Club PickAn Indigo Best Teen Book of 2022A Junior Library Guild PickAn Indie Next PickA Goodreads Most Anticipated YA Book
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.


Honestly, I started The Luminaries by Susan Dennard because I loved the cover, first and foremost. Then, I thought the whole Jay and Winnie thing might be fun based off the synopsis. It was more than fun. I devoured this book and cannot wait to get started on the sequel.

Now, I want to preface that this review is based off of the audiobook. Caitlin Davies does a fantastic job in narrating this story. The emotion we hear from both Winnie and Jay, the yearning, loneliness, and sadness is all thanks to Davies’ skill. Honestly, I’m not sure if I would have felt the same impact, the same draw to the book if I were just reading the words myself and not listening to the words unspoken in Davies’ voice.

Worldbuilding was interesting. Contemporary setting, so there isn’t much to reimagine there but there were quirks that in theory make sense. Everyone belonging to a day of the week and having the same surname in multiple languages was a weird quirk. Having a family bike (but also a car) was weird. That they have televisions but computers and cell phones are a rarity, is weird. Like, I grew up poor/am still poor, but considering the contemporary world/setting, it seems weird to not have in the United States. On the other hand, it makes sense considering how insular the townsfolk are, so why would they need these things to connect to the outside world? Why need cellphones to call your friends when you could just go and be with your friends?

On the other hand, the science and descriptions that went into these nightmares was awesome. I wish we eventually get an illustrated compendium. I want to know more about these nightmares because general interest, but also it’d be interesting to turn them into ttrpg style monsters. The way this town works, the creation of nightmares, is so cool. I wish we knew more. I want more. I want to know what other regions have.

Characters were good. I fell in love with Jay Friday, like almost every other character in Hemlock Falls. He is mysterious and conflicted but obviously really cares for Winnie. I had read another review when deciding whether I wanted to pick this up and I honestly have no idea what book they were reading when they said there were no sparks between Jay and Winnie. It is tangible. So is the conflict between them. Winnie, rightfully upset over their estrangement. Jay, we still don’t know what his reasons are but I sure do have my suspicions.

Speaking of suspicions, I do have them. Many of them. For many characters. A handful are a little flat, but I wonder if it is only because this is the first book and because Winnie doesn’t know them. She hasn’t had a chance to speak with them, grow these relationships. So I am absolutely willing to overlook this.

Would I recommend The Luminaries by Susan Dennard? I mean, look at all I’ve said and there’s so much more I haven’t. Yes, I would recommend it to folks that enjoy YA paranormal with the foreshadowing of angst teen romance. I cannot wait to pick up the sequel!


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