Review of ‘The Luminaries’

The Luminaries follows Winnie Wednesday as she embarks on her journey to save her family from disgrace at the risk of her own life.


The Luminaries
Susan Dennard
Tor Teen

Before I talk about the story, I want to spend a little time here on the characters because this is a character-driven story.

Winnie Wednesday has lived her whole life wanting to be a Hunter. She wants to hunt monsters as a proper Luminary. However, since her father was labeled a traitor alongside her mother and brother, she was made an outcast.

But with the trials coming on, Winnie only wants to survive and pass, live her dream, and bring her family back into the Luminary fold.

There is a lot of weight on Winnie’s shoulders, a lot of grief she has yet to deal with. Winnie was close to her father, so close that even four years later, the sting of his betrayal is still painful. But more than that, she has this pressure not only to her family but to herself to prove herself. She goes through an intensive journey that helps develop her character.

Unfortunately, she is the only one who does.

I wish there had been more character development from the side characters. There is some tension between her former best friends, Jay and Erika. But none of those character dynamics are flushed out properly. These two characters were dear to her but then dropped her like everyone else did when they were labeled outcasts.

There is a lot Dennard could have done, especially when hinting at Erika’s figure, the way everything about her, except her nails, is picture-perfect. There is even the way Erika looks at her and lashes out unexpectedly. The reader can see that her mother puts much pressure on her, but we see that through Winnie’s eyes and thoughts rather than Erika’s growth.

The same can be said for Jay. I’m pretty sure Jay is the boy from the prologue. There is something in how Jay acts; he is the only person to give nightmares pronouns versus calling them something other.

But there was no development of the other characters. Lots of doors opening, but no actual walking through.


This goes for the story as well.

While we follow Winnie through The Luminaries, we see how the world is built up. This is a secret(?) society that hunts Nightmares, monsters that come up from the mist and kill. I added the question mark there because I was somewhat confused about whether the Luminaries were a secret society. At times it seemed as though they were. People not born there had to be vetted into the town and community. But then it seemed as though they weren’t.

Now, while this may be a character-driven story, my issue, which isn’t a bad thing, is that I wanted more.

Dennard throws in a lot of questions, but there are no answers. The book ends with a cliffhanger I didn’t see coming, and many opened doors. Now, had I known this was the first book in a series when I picked it up, I think I would have felt better about it, but I did not. Unfortunately, this has colored my opinion of the book. Because so much was happening. From her family getting back into the community, her fathers’ secret message, the weirdness of Jay and Erika, and the Nightmare she calls the Whisperer. A lot is happening, and the plot twists, but not a single resolution.

Thank god there’s going to be a sequel because I need answers, and I need them now.

Final Thoughts

Overall, The Luminaries was a decent book. Dennard’s writing is captivating, and the way she throws in plot twist after plot twist, creating more tension and quickening the story’s pace, hooks the reader. Nevertheless, I wish there had been more character development all around. I can only hope book two will focus more on the other characters and the weird character dynamics she has set up here.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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