The Luminaries by Susan Dennard has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2022. The minute I saw it being compared to The Witcher I knew I had to get my hands on this one as soon as it came out. It’s been a long wait having to go until a November release date but finally this book is out in the world and I had my chance to give it a read. A huge thanks to Raincoast books for providing me with a review copy!
The Luminaries follows Winnie, a teenage girl just turning 16, which is the age that people are allowed to take the trials to become a luminary if they choose that path. Winnie has always wanted to become a luminary, to follow in the footsteps of her mother, but she has one giant obstacle in the way of her dreams. Her family has been cast out by her people due to her father being discovered as a traitor following the Diana’s who are a great enemy to the luminaries. Though outcasts, they still live among their people, though have spent the past four years being ignored and barely scraping by.
Winnie sneaks her way into the first trial and stumbles her way through it, somehow managing to pass. Because of this, suddenly she, her mother, and brother are welcomed back into the group, getting much better treatment because Winnie has proven they are loyal after all. However there are much more insidious things about and Winnie tries to uncover the details on a mysterious monster she came across in her first trial that has never been detailed before.
It did take me a little bit to fully get into this book, but once I did the world really enraptured me. There are these unique, horrifying sounding monsters that pop out of the mist in the forest every night, nightmares as they are called, and this was such a different, interesting idea. I also very much enjoy a good trial based storyline and this one didn’t disappoint, and even had the added bonus of something of a mystery in this deadly monster that has never been seen before and Winnie’s attempts to figure out what it is and warn her people.
I really liked the world that was built up in this book. People who fight monster to protect their people, and those that don’t even know that monster are a threat known as nons. Then there is the personal strife of Winnie and her family fighting to be let back into the society they have been kicked out of, while also dealing with the struggles of forgiving people who ignored them for four years and suddenly treat them as if they have never been shunned once Winnie wins their way back in. There are the creepy monsters, the mysterious Whisperer, and a people that refuse to believe that it’s a real threat, focusing instead on the rumours of a werewolf which is a threat they are familiar with.
There is also this mysterious happening that seems to have gone on in the past seventeen years ago with a werewolf that is hinted at yet not spoken of and which further amps up the mystery of Hemlock Falls. I really, really enjoyed the little mysteries thrown in to this storyline as it wasn’t something I had been anticipating (read probably just a whole lot of monster fighting) so this was a very pleasant aspect of the story to me.
The end of this book gets super intense and makes it very hard not to see it through right to the end because there is so much going on. The last fifty or so pages create a number of questions and opens up some theories, though also starts to answer other questions at least a little. All in all this book was very good, and I cannot wait for the sequel that I assume is coming because there are so many things I want to find out the answers to and I’d really like to see where Winnie’s training goes towards becoming a full fledged Luminary.