A brave and elaborately imagined tale—laden with unforgettable imagery.
One thing I can say for certain about Luminous… I’ve never encountered anything quite like it. Metcalf fuses an eloquent knack for description with a unique blend of urban-fantasy, cultural mysticism, and horror. The basic premise alone is intriguing—the idea of there being a suspended state somewhere between life and death, and that the rare occupiers of this realm could be given guardian angel-like assignments—has more potential hooks than a literary tackle box. Add to that the enrichment of a plus-sized Hispanic heroine, and I was enthralled from the get-go.
There were a few taste-based downsides, however.
*The romance felt too close to inexplicable insta-love for this readers preference, and the lack of getting-to-know-you intimacy made it overall difficult to buy into.
*The characters, with the exception of the villain, all felt emotionally disengaged. As a result, when the body count stared to rise, I didn’t really feel the concern or turmoil I probably should have. I wanted to relate to and feel invested in them—especially Consuela. But I found I kept reading to learn would happen, rather than because I cared about the ensemble cast or their relationships.
*The worldbuilding and transitions were frequently confusing. I was never quite sure of the rules and/or limitations of the place where we spend nearly the entire book. And while that kept things from feeling predictable, it also raised aspects that felt a little too convenient to the plot.
I almost never comment on or care about cover art, but in this case, I have to make an exception. The cover, while lovely, doesn’t do this book any favors. I’d argue it’s actually a detriment. The feel is so pristine and light fantasy, you'd never suspect the macabre detour the story takes. And the blurb on the back doesn't even half-prepare you for the extent of the ethereal day-of-the-dead strangeness you are about to encounter.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the originality of this concept—the atmospheric miasma of the story itself. But the book simply doesn’t deliver on the impression the cover seemed to be promising.
I’d like to stress, this is definitely an author I plan to keep an eye on. It’s been several years now since this book’s release. I’d love to see what she might do given a little more time and a different kind of storyline.