The Luminaries is a chilling, gripping contemporary fantasy set in the heavily forested--and haunted--town of Hemlock Falls, where school always starts late, "to accommodate corpse duty or last night's [nightmare] hunters."
The "global society" of Luminaries is an elite and secret collection of weekday-named family clans who guard the world against the living nightmares of ancient spirits. When Winnie Wednesday's father was ostracized for being a spy for the enemy, his family became outcasts themselves. Sixteen-year-old Winnie has a plan, though: "pass the three hunter trials, restore her family's status in the Luminaries, and become a nightmare hunter like she has always been destined to be." But something strange--stranger than the usual banshees and manticores--lurks in the forest, and no one seems to be taking the danger as seriously as outcast Winnie.
Susan Dennard (The Witchlands series) captures with knife-sharp precision the cruelty of teens and adults who either ignore or bully Winnie, which makes the girl's determination to kill monsters or die trying seem perfectly understandable. Normal contemporary teen culture (phones, parties, best-friends-turned-crushes) meshes naturally with a supernatural-adjacent lifestyle (cleaning up nightmare bodies, crossbow and saber training, memorizing the Nightmare Compendium). Winnie, a nervous teeth-clicker and glasses-shover, is tremendously likable; readers can only hope that the nightmares induced by The Luminaries will be vanquished by someone as brave and real as Winnie Wednesday. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor