Book of the month – December: The Luminaries


Katelyn Fonkert

“The Luminaries” by Susan Dennard was released Nov. 2022.

Katelyn Fonkert, Editor-in-Chief

“The Luminaries” by Susan Dennard, was released on Nov. 1, 2022. This book is the first in Dennard’s new YA series, The Luminaries. 

16-year-old Winnie Wednesday and her family are outcasts to the Luminaries after the incident, but she has found a way to be let back into the Luminary and her clan. She must become a hunter, must participate in the upcoming trials and hope she passes all three, but in order to do so she must enlist the help of Jay Friday.

The book takes place in a town called Hemlock Falls. In the forests surrounding Hemlock Falls is where a spirit sleeps, and their nightmares come to life and roam the forest wreaking havoc on the mortals. Hemlock Falls is a secret town, but the people within its boundaries protect the Nons, people who live outside of town, and they hunt the Nightmares. There are seven clans, one for each night of the week, and to become a hunter, you must pass the trials. To qualify for the trials, you have to have been born into the Luminary, take the hunter trials and must pass all three to become a hunter.

The world-building in this novel was very clear and understandable and would be great for someone who may be new to the realm of fantasy novels. With many fantasy novels, it typically takes 50-100 pages to thoroughly understand the world and setting in which the story takes place, but with this book, it took about 30 pages to understand the basics of the setting and about 50 to fully understand the world of the Luminaries. I really liked this because she was very clear and concise with her world-building, it made the book easy to understand and comprehend early on. 

The way she describes the world of the Luminaries is really descriptive and makes you feel as though you are there in Hemlock Falls and can clearly visualize many of the characters and nightmares. Her descriptions give you the whole picture of the town, forest, characters and nightmares. She uses her words to get her readers to visualize everything and get an idea of what everything looks like.

Dennard did an amazing job at capturing emotions. Throughout the book, we see Winnie confront a ton of new challenges, both in the trials and in her personal life. The luminaries are now welcoming and kind after four years of treating Winnie and her family terribly. We see Winnie struggling to trust them and their new kindness. We also see her having similar struggles of trust with Jay and other friendships. Winnie walks us through her anger and frustration with those around her.

During the trails Winnie clearly expresses her fears, both internal and external. She guides us through the immense fear she faces when in the forest, and what she encounters there. She also expresses her fear of trust with those in her personal life, herself and the forest.

Winnie does progress in the terms of what she faces outside the forest, but whenever inside the forest that fear never goes away because she is facing nightmares with very little training on her part. Her character development is slow, but is there, and since there will be a second book we will see her grow as a character more in that book.

This is a fantasy novel that is set in a world of hunters, so there is some violence and gruesome deaths. While it’s not that descriptive, it is worth mentioning.

Overall I think this a really good book, it has great world building, character and setting descriptions, emotion and character development. It has all the qualities a good fantasy novel should have, which is why I’m so excited for the sequel to come out next year.

5/5 read.