The Luminaries / Susan Dennard / Book Review

When the evening fog rolls in, the monsters awaken. 

Only the Luminaries keep the nightmares contained. 

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, an ancient order designed to protect humanity from the monsters of the night. Like her mother and her mother's mother before her, Winnie has a destiny. But that's easier said than done. Ever since her father was discovered to be a witch, Winnie's family has lived in shame--banished from all Luminary activities even if they still call Hemlock Falls home.

But Winnie has a plan to change that. She's read the Handbook. She knows the rules. All Luminary children have the chance to prove themselves when they turn sixteen. The hunt is dangerous, sure, and even more so for a girl who hasn't been allowed to train with her cohort for the last four years. But it's her only way back into the fold. It is her destiny. She has to try. Or die trying.

A very real possibility.

When her hunt goes awry and Winnie learns there's something lurking in the forest that's brand new--and killing other nightmare creatures--she tries to warn the Luminaries. But though they're willing to let her try to join them, they won't listen to a girl with tainted heritage--even when she's speaking the truth. 


This book was such a great start to a new series! I do wish it was a tad more self-contained--that a few of its plots had wrapped up entirely--but I very much enjoyed the spectacularly spooky atmosphere Susan Dennard creates. 


  • Drama By Omission: This is something that usually ends up in my critiques instead of my pros list. Here, however, the fact that Winnie skirts the truth--and thereby creates tension--proves a positive. When others assume something about Winnie that isn't true (but does in fact help her cause), of course she doesn't deny it. This makes perfect sense. It plays right into her own desires, and the tension that it subsequently creates isn't as cringe-worthy as drama-by-omission usually is. This little white lie-by-omission is also cleared up in the end--somewhat--and I appreciate that, too. 
  • World of Nightmares: This is a world of werewolves and vampires, kelpies and will-o-the-wisps. The nightmares of this forest come alive each evening, and they are vicious and startlingly real. Supernatural spooks and eldritch horrors drip through these pages--and it's delightful. 
  • Atmospheric: In addition to the dreadfully fantastic nightmare beasts of this forest, Dennard absolutely nails the unsettling atmosphere. From the rising fog to the trickling creeks and the crashing waterfalls, this forest is full of nightmare-fuel even before the beasts come awake. Blood drips through these trees, and the clicking of Winnie's anxious teeth--and the teeth 0f the resounding vampires--sets an unsettling sort of score to this tale. 


  • Flimsy Worldbuilding: As atmospheric as every setting Winnie finds herself in might be, the actual world itself here needs a bit more fleshing out. There are slumbering spirits all around the world, communities of Luminaries who keep their nightmares contained, and Diana witches who want to... exploit the spirits, I guess? But, but, but I have so many questions and no explanations. The surface was there. There's a nice scaffolding in place. But there's nothing really to sink my teeth into. I wanted something more. 
  • Jumpy Pacing: The pacing here was sometimes incredibly fast and sometimes awkwardly slow. The whole book only spans a week of time, and so a quick pace makes sense. That some more tedious and mundane scenes therefore go on and on seems a little much. Why dedicate so many pages to so little content? That isn't to say that anything really dragged, but the overall feeling here wasn't quite balanced. 
  • Unresolved: At the end of the day (and the book), there were just a few too many unconnected dots for me. The competition itself wraps up, but the competition isn't the big plot here. Winnie's struggle to be accepted isn't the big plot. The big plot is, well, bigger than that. There are a lot of other struggles happening, and there are a lot of hints dropped that meant I was disappointed when the end came without these dangling bits tied up. I know there needs to be something for the next book... but something  major should have found its conclusion here. It was an irritating note to (not) end on. 



Those who liked the modern flair to the magic worldbuilding of Christine Lynn Herman and Amanda Foody's All of Us Villains will like this contemporary world of dangerous magic. Those who appreciated the romantic-tension-filled training sessions of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy will enjoy these new soon-to-be hunters.  


Publisher: Tor Teen
Date: November 1, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. Sounds good but might irritate me if too much is unresolved


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