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Book Review: Hunger Games meets Vampire Diaries in "The Luminaries"

In the town of Hemlock Falls, an ancient order called the Luminaries protects the town and world from the nightmarish monsters roaming the nearby forest every night. Winnie Wednesday yearns to join the league of hunters that protect the town, but after her father is exposed as a traitor, her family is shunned by the town. But Winnie has a chance to prove her loyalty and restore her family’s name in the Luminary hunter trials on her 16th birthday.

But after years of being shunned, Winnie must enlist the help of the resident bad boy and her former friend, Jay Friday, to survive the deadly trials. But dangerous creatures lurk in the forest, and it'll take everything in Winnie to survive the trials.

Dennard explains in her Acknowledgements section that “The Luminaries” was more or less conceived by her Twitter followers through polls to put her writing skills to the test. Although much of the Twitter-sourced ideas were scrapped from the final manuscript, Dennard took some big ideas and used those to conceptualize “The Luminaries.”

The world of “The Luminaries” was an exciting base concept, with clans named after days of the week running the town of Hemlock Falls and protecting the secret of nightmares from the world. Once more details were introduced, Hemlock Falls’ hierarchy and history became muddied every time the protagonist, Winnie, tried to explain them. Mainly, the clan histories and their functions within Hemlock Falls left me scratching my head and eventually moving on rather than attempting to figure out their place within the story.

Winnie, the protagonist, is a reserved, awkward teenager who exemplifies the ‘not-like-other-girls’ trope without the hidden jealousy and thinly veiled misogyny. Although I loathe this trope, Dennard makes it work with Winnie’s predicament and personality, but there are moments where Winnie’s insecurities seem unnecessary to her storyline–especially concerning Jay. I can understand the insecurities of being around a crush and hoping to impress them, but many of these moments were directed toward the other female characters in the novel and felt mildly misogynistic.

The gore and horror elements woven into “The Luminaries” was stellar––vivid descriptions and visceral emotions sent chills up my spine more than once while reading. The plotline centered around her father’s betrayal, and the mysterious envelopes felt rushed and placed haphazardly in the novel. Although this plotline will likely be built upon in future installments, there were few reasons to care about it, and it often read like an afterthought.

An atmospheric, imaginative concept with room for further exploration, “The Luminaries” has the potential of being the next great YA series.

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