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.
Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night.
Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.
But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the 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.
Winnie Wednesday lives in in Hemlock Falls and on the eve of her sixteenth birthday she decides to take first of the Luminary hunter trials. She needs to kill a Nightmare, but there is a problem. Her family has been outcast and shunned for the past four years, so the only training she’s done is on her own in her living room leaping over couches and other ramshackle obstacles. Herself, mother, and brother have lived on the outside of Luminary society looking in, and where they were once welcomed they are now ignored at best.
The plot is fast-paced and the prose is so compulsively readable. The world that Dennard has crafted has such an interesting set-up. The premise is that there are seven clans, one for each day of the week and each night a different clan is charged with sending their Hunters into the forest. Aside from protection duty, each clan has their own place in society, for example Sunday’s oversee the training of new Hunters. The Nightmares form from the mist in the evening and evaporate with the dawn. The Luminary society forms around world spirits which are what spawn the Nightmares and there are 14 spirits across the world, we only see the American Luminaries though. It would definitely be neat in sequels to get to explore other Luminary societies elsewhere.
There is one clan that holds no particular place in society: the Friday’s. They are the smallest clan and only two people live in their base location. Enter Jay Friday, a 17-year old boy who is a prodigal hunter and extraordinary slacker who skips school regularly. Once upon a time Jay and Winnie were close friends along with a third member from the Thursday clan, but since Winnie’s family was outcast she’s been shunned by even them. But when she takes the first Hunter trial in a bid to reenter Luminary society, she finds that a side-effect is gaining Jay as a friend again.
There are other plot threads beyond just Winnie going through Hunter trials but I think that they’re best revealed with time as you read so I won’t mention them other than to say that this book is not just a single beat plot. There are greater things at play, and I’m eagerly awaiting continuing to unravel the mysteries in subsequent installments.
The Luminaries sits firmly in the YA paranormal genre and it gave me a bit of a throwback to my time reading Cassandra Clare, or Becca Fitzpatrick in all the best ways. I’d highly recommend picking this up if you’re in the mood for a fast-paced paranormal read.