The Luminaries by Susan Dennard: Complex World

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.

Susan Dennard definitely has an complex world. The very opening builds the mystery of Winnie Wednesday and Hemlock Falls, pulling you in immediately. The world is intriguing with some truly thoughtful details on the various families and how the world works, how the Luminaries function and why Winnie is attempting what seems like the impossible. Even better the various mysteries keep you hooked throughout the novel.

I liked Winnie’s personality, her fight, her struggles and her romance with Jay. While the romance and all of her struggles are not resolved, I liked that we got both some moments of inner conflict as well as external struggle she faces in the trials. The fantasy and romance elements are engaging and well written. My only issue is that I would have preferred a more solid ending to some of the mysteries but since this is clearly book one in a series, I can appreciate the open ended elements. I love the complex world and look forward to the next, hoping that it will bring some more elements to fruition. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 nightmares

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