The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1) by Susan Dennard #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy

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.

I tried this author’s Witchland series, but it just wasn’t for me. But this book? I couldn’t wait for its release. Everything about its description called my name.

Although set in the modern world, Hemlock Falls is kind of its own world. They’re a pretty closed society, and outsiders have to be vetted before their admittance. Why? Because the town is protected by Luminaries (hunters) from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest every night. You’ve got your garden variety creatures (basilisks, werewolves, kelpies) plus others the author created. It’s a highly dangerous job, and not everyone makes it to retirement. Winnie comes from a long line of hunters and has wanted to continue the tradition as long as she can remember. After it’s discovered her father is a traitor, Winnie, her mother, and brother are shunned and lose their standing in the community for ten years. Winnie thinks her dream is lost until she finds a loophole that allows her to still compete in the Luminary hunter trials. All she wants is acceptance for her family and for things to be the way they were.

Winnie is such an easy character to root for. She’s plucky, brave, and family is her top priority. She’s determined to show everyone they aren’t responsible for her father’s mistakes. Luckily, she has the support of a few friends who stuck by her over the past few years, unlike Jay, her former best friend and now one of the society’s best hunters. Jay piqued my curiosity. There’s something going on there, and he’s definitely holding onto secrets. I’m anxious to learn more about him in the next book.

Besides Jay’s secrets, something’s also afoot in the forest – something that has even the regular monsters running. Winnie saw it (she’s still not sure exactly what it is), but no one believes her, and town leaders reassure the citizens that everything’s under control. It’s not.

I loved the author’s note about the origin of this story – it began as a choose your own adventure Twitter serial. How cool is that? Dark fantasy is one of my preferred genres, and my head was buried in this book from beginning to end. I was annoyed when I had to put it down. I’m anxious to learn the secrets this forest and a certain character are hiding, so the second book can’t get here soon enough.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

20 thoughts on “The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1) by Susan Dennard #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy

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