I received an ARC as part of an ARC tour within the street team. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 5 stars Series: yes - first book
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. Only the Luminaries, a society of ancient guardians, stand between humanity and the nightmares of the forest that rise each night.
Winnie Wednesday, an exile from the Luminaries, is determined to restore her family’s good name by taking the deadly hunter trials on her sixteenth birthday. And there’s only 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.
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE LUMINARIES is the start of a new Susan Dennard series, a contemporary fantasy with creepy woods, monsters, and a town full of secrets.
Some readers might have started learning about this book and world from the “Sooz Your Own Adventure” in 2019. This book is absolutely not that story – it’s a very different plot, but it is also filled with so many nods to it, including fan favourites like “Ugh, Jay.” It was fun to see such a different and yet familiar story, feeling like you knew the place and characters (despite it being the first book) and yet there being so much to discover and theorise about.
Also, yes, you WILL be theorising a lot, so have a bookish friend on speed dial to send ideas back and forth with because there are SO MANY hints and clues and “throwaway” lines to obsess over. Being a Susan Dennard book, you know these are going to come back with SIGNIFICANT meaning in later books, big “oh” reveals as it all ties together. It was fun knowing that’s her writing style and so being alert (and then coming up with a dozen theories.)
It is a really funny book – it’s not a comedy , but Winnie’s voice means that her observations can be very, very amusing. I was laughing so much at lines throughout. The overall tone is definitely one of creepy forest vibes, but it gives some moments of levity alongside the eerie.
And it is such a creepy forest. A mist that chokes you then births monsters. The monsters themselves (and the new one know one will believe Winnie about that has the worst powers.) All the history and lore and “things are just not quite right here” vibes of the town that’s full of people dedicated to saving the world and so have built all these rules and rituals into their lives.
I loved how common sayings had all been adjusted to fit the world, similes and metaphors like “raining cats and dogs” replaced with “raining hellions and banshees.” It’s small details like that that make a world believable, where the consequence of the fantasy elements are thought all the way through into speech.
It’s a really sensory book, particularly on sounds. So many people have audio-producing tics so there is a lot of onomatopoeia throughout. As someone who really struggles with sound processing, it made situations more stressful to have the sound so prominent, because that is what I’d be unable to escape in that situation myself.
Next book please!!
Read my reviews of other books by Susan Dennard:
Something Strange and Deadly: