Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard 🌲 Creepy Forests, Monsters & Small-Towns

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Published: November 1, 2022 by Tor Teen

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A haunting contemporary fantasy, about the magic it takes to face your fears in a nightmare-filled forest, and the mettle required to face the secrets hiding in the dark corners of your own family.

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. But when she turns to her ex best friend Jay Friday for help, they 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.


CW’s: Violence, Gore, Bullying

Representation 🌷 Gay & Black SC’s




A Creepy Forest full of MonstersΒ πŸ‘€

β€œThe forest is dangerous for a Luminary untrained.”

Welcome to Hemlock Falls where nightmares lurk! ➽ This small-town is one of several locations that have got a sleeping spirit underneath their forest. The problem? Its dreams create Nightmares – different types of monsters that roam the space at night and try to escape its boundaries. That’s why The Luminaries Clans are tasked to protect the world by deploying their hunters to eliminate the monsters. Therefore there’s a Clan for each day of the week. I loved this setting and the unique idea!! It’s more paranormal Fantasy which I have been craving recently!

Hemlock Falls is your typical small town, where everyone knows everyone and because of the danger, it’s very isolated. I loved getting to know the different Clans, especially as each of them has a different motto and value they hold dear. I also appreciated that the worldbuilding wasn’t only focused on America, but mentioned Luminaries around the world – some of which have come to live in Hemlock Falls. Unsurprisingly, I loved everything about the world and setting – be it the clans and their history or getting to know the different monsters of the forest. There is a lot of mystery in town as well and I can see that there’s so much we don’t know yet. I cannot wait to see what the next two books have in store!


Outcast Heroine trying to save her family’s image 🏹

Winnie Wednesday is determined to become a Hunter! ➽ The Wednesday Clan is all about loyalty to the end, but Winnie’s family has been an outcast ever since her father betrayed their secrets to their sworn enemy. Even though it wasn’t Winnie’s fault, she’s suffering the consequences alongside with her brother and mom. Being ignored, mocked, and devalued by everyone has taken a toll on her over the years, but with her 16th birthday coming up, Winnie is determined to change things. She wants to become a Hunter and protect the town from the monsters, but she needs to undergo the Hunter Trials first.

It was easy to like Winnie as I really felt her desperation and determination to fight for her dream and the future of her family. It’s heartbreaking how isolated she was, with everyone giving up on her family. She’s been trying her best to train on her own, as she hasn’t been welcome at the campus or training facilities. The odds are stacked against her, but Winnie isn’t giving up … even if the Trials are more challenging than she thought and something strange is going on in the forest as well. I loved seeing her character Arc and the discussion about how quickly those who scorned her family change their mind, just because Winnie is in the Trials.


Ex-Best Friends to Lovers ❀️

β€œ’I’m not getting into a car with a strange man.’ This startles a laugh from him. Or the closest to a laugh that Jay ever makes: a soft cough while his left eyebrow lifts. ‘I am not a strange man. You’ve known me since you were five.’”

That awkward feeling when the only person willing to train you is your attractive ex-best friend 😱 ➽ Jay Friday used to be Winnie’s best friend alongside Erica Thursday … but they both abandoned her the moment her family became outcasts. Now Jay is one of the most promising young hunters and the only person able and willing to help her catch up, as he already succeeded at the trials. He’s part of the smallest and least powerful clan, but people still feel drawn to Jay. He can be aloof, broody, and quiet, but mostly is oblivious about people’s reactions to him. I immediately liked him as well and his dynamic with Winnie brought on lots of chemistry and old history between them! It wasn’t the focus of the story, but I liked their interactions and cannot wait to see more of them in the next book!


Lovable Cast of Side CharactersΒ πŸ₯°

Getting to know all the different Luminaries was great! ➽ It’s always a magical feeling when an author manages to make the side characters shine and feel like they’re integral to the story. I really liked Winnie’s family, as they’re doing the best they can. She’s living with her mom, but her brother Darian moved in with his boyfriend. The siblings still have a close bond and are united in their sadness and frustration, as they keenly feel the scorn of the town. I also loved the fellow members of the Wednesday clan that try to make Winnie feel included, even before she gains popularity again. The twins Emma & Bretta and Fatima always had Winnie’s back and I hope to see more of their friendship in the next book! I also hope to see more of Mario Monday – Winnie’s kind of friend who trades theories with her – and her ex-best friend Erica.

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Did you read The Luminaries? What’s your favorite Fantasy book with creepy forests and mysterious small towns? 🌲


2 thoughts on “Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard 🌲 Creepy Forests, Monsters & Small-Towns

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