Illuminate (Gilded Wings #1)

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Illuminate (Gilded Wings #1)
Author(s)
Genre(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
March 06, 2012
ISBN
0547626142
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Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.

As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?

Illuminate is an exciting saga of a teen’s first taste of independence, her experience in the lap of luxury, and her discovery she may possess strength greater than she ever knew.

User reviews

3 reviews

Overall rating 
 
3.9
Plot 
 
3.3  (3)
Characters 
 
4.3  (3)
Writing Style 
 
4.0  (3)
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Glamorous cover sucked me in
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
I, like many others, took the time to read some of the reviews posted by other readers. Even though the book gets a lot of bad press, I still couldn't resist the cover.

That being said...
The book is incredibly long and full of (unnecessary) lengthy descriptions. There doesn't seem to be that much going on in the plot, but some reviews may have exaggerated. If you're going to read this book, you probably shouldn't buy it (full price). I, personally, checked mine out at my local library. This book is NOT a standalone, and is the first in its series. That being said, there is going to be a lot of introduction to the new and exciting world the book is set in.

Some other thoughts...
The video is actually a really good video. Although the main character doesn't wear glasses, and another character does... But, other than that, the video doesn't give too much away until after you read it. And then you're like "Oh my gosh! I remember that part!" Or, at least that's what I basically did. I will definitely be continuing this series. I think the author has only just set us up, and the next few will be better.
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Good for MG, not really YA
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
Haven Terra is the stereotypical high school girl who is constantly overlooked. In fact, everything about her is ordinary—other than her name, “Haven” (which I love). She is the smart girl in class who is afraid to give the correct answer because she hates being labeled the brainiac, but she doesn’t want to give the wrong answered and be labeled the dummy. So, instead, she slinks down in her desk and tries her best not to be noticed. However, when she (along with her best friend Dante and classmate Lance) are recruited into a prestigious internship at a fancy hotel in Chicago, this all changes.
The Lexington Hotel—where it all begins. It’s beautiful, adorned with eye-popping architecture, shimmering chandeliers, and gorgeous people (referred to as The Outfit). In fact, every one that works there is drop-dead gorgeous. (Emphasis on the ‘drop dead’). Owned by the stunningly beautiful Aurelia Brown and managed by the you-take-my-breath-away Lucian Grove, the Lexington is the “hot” place in Chicago, but it will soon prove to be Haven’s hell.

To Haven, magic, angels, demons—these are just things in dreams—not real life. But that dream is about to be ripped apart. Haven is plucked from the safe environment of home, and thrust into a world full of lies, secrets, betrayal, and pain, where nothing is what it seems. She soon finds herself falling for the mysterious Lucian (because who wouldn’t?), but Haven is about to find out that love can be even more dangerous than evil, for Lucian has secrets of his own.

Caught between what she feels and what she knows, she finds herself slipping further into this dark world. With the help of a strange book, Haven soon learns that to survive, she must not only unearth the secrets that Aurelia, Lucian, and The Outfit hold, but she must also dig into her own missing past. Haven soon learns that she is the only hope to save a world that otherwise would burn.

Fear. Danger. Love. Magic. Secrets. Rage. Desire. Hatred.

In her fight to save her friends and the world she knows, will she lose herself?

As I was reading Illuminate, my favorite quote kept popping into my head:
“"Are there, infinitely varying with each individual, inbred forces of Good and Evil in all of us, deep down below the reach of mortal encouragement and mortal repression -- hidden Good and hidden Evil, both alike at the mercy of the liberating opportunity and the sufficient temptation?"” --No Name by Wilkie Collins

Which nature we choose to act on is what defines our past, our present, our future, and most importantly—our afterlife. In Illuminate, each character’s soul is in the middle of a tug-o-war between good and evil. Aimee Agresti shows us how each decision we make affects the beauty of our soul—each sin makes a small blemish to remind us of our vulnerable state of being, whereas each act of love or redemption casts a brightening light over our heads.
Who will fight and who will fall when the “sufficient temptation” rolls around?

What did I like? The dichotomies…

Popular vs. Pariah

Coming from a small school where you can participate in everything and being a part of the popular crowd made me like the antagonists the best (don’t judge me, bad guys are awesome….kind of like I root for Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty or Draco in Harry Potter). Full of corrupt power, Aurelia is the quintessential temptation for those who desire fame or fortune. As you will find soon into the book, Aurelia and her band of glamorous followers are in the business of purchasing the souls of others. While I wouldn’t dream of selling my soul for anything, you can definitely see the more negative desire of the human heart in her, and thus, on some level, relate to her.

On the other hand, Haven is the quiet, smart girl in school. After teaching for a few years, I can unequivocally see how so many people would relate to her situation. If you know what it’s like to be overlooked (and hey, we all do at some point), then you will relate to Haven. Or, if like me, you sometimes live in a fantasy world where you wake up and it’s you who has the strange power or the magical destiny, then you will love how Haven goes from the insignificant student to the confident and power-wielding hero.

Good vs. Evil

My favorite part about the book is the internal struggle about what future to choose. I loved to watch Haven struggle with her desire for Lucian, even after she knew the truth about him. That’s human nature isn’t it? We refuse to believe what we see with our eyes if it breaks our hearts. What’s even more intriguing, though, is to see how Lucian struggles with his own choice for immortality, since he found himself at the “mercy of temptation,” and instead of choosing good, he faltered, falling into evil.

Agresti paints a world of black and white, good and evil, weak and strong, fire and ice where everyone must make a choice, and once that’s made, there may be no going back.

Conclusion

The book is not without its flaws. With a kind of Tolkien description, there are times when I felt I could have skipped a page or two and not missed anything. I mean, the book is 531 pages and could have easily been 50-100 pages less. Nonetheless, I still read it all in few days (which is good for me as I have an 8 month old who is constantly getting into things and stealing my attention—along with the attention of anyone who lays eyes on him!). I do believe that this book will be more appealing to teenagers who can relate more to Haven’s current place in life. I wish it would have had more of a romantic appeal to it. There is the romance between Haven and Lucian, but it’s ill-fated from the start, so I couldn’t allow myself to really enjoy it.

The characters are a bit stereotypical, I mean, you have the token gay guy, the smart nerd, the sexy mysterious guy (who happens to be a demon), and the girly hero (who happens to be an angel). I truthfully didn’t have a problem with this, though. I still enjoyed this book, but it was not one that I would start texting friends and family to read right away.

As for the content of the book, there are a few curse words, mainly the s-word, but they were not rampant. I would say no more than 5 or 6 times in the book. The thing that would bother me most (as a parent) is the underage drinking. There is a night club, The Vault, that Haven and her friends are allowed in to, where there are a few scenes that highlight dancing and partying. Haven, though, does make a point not to drink or party. The most sexual content you’ll see is a hot and steamy kiss on the way to a night club.

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Illuminate
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Aaaand, huge sigh of relief/accomplishment. Illuminate is one hefty book and I was really afraid to start it because I wasn’t sure how long something that big would take me, but I needn’t have worried. After getting into the story, I just wanted to devour the whole thing and forget everything else in the world.

Not only was I skeptical of the size going in, I was also wary of the paranormal factor. You’ve probably noticed paranormal reviews are few and far between around here and when they do come, it’s from a book that has really high ratings. I definitely was not disappointed by Illuminate either. The beginning did start out a bit rocky for me, though. There was lots of setup and descriptions and it all just kind of started to bog me down because I wanted to get right down to the gooey center (confession: I’m looking at a picture of a gooey chocolate cake right now, so who knows what kind of crazy adjectives I’ll come up with) of the story, but once I did get there things started to get really good.
I was nearly 100 pages in before the story really hooked me, but in the grand scheme of 514 pages that’s basically nothing.

Characters, guys. Characters, characters, characters. Agresti has created some fantastic ones in Illuminate. The side characters end up being SO much more than side characters. They’re actual a really integral part of the story. Haven’s two guy pals at the Lexington are such awesome friends I don’t even know where to begin. Even the bad guys are complex.

Haven is one supremely awesome character. She doesn’t start out all super awesome butt-kicking bad girl. Instead, she’s pretty timid and fairly average, but not to the point that she’s terribly boring. You actually get to watch her grow into a confident butt-kicking character which I found to be really refreshing. She wasn’t your typical paranormal girl who’s all “I’m scared, but I’m willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING and die for the greater good.” Instead, she’s all “I’ll fight to the death if I have to, but I’d really rather not if that’s okay too.”

And romance? Talk about a slow-build! I’m really not going to get into it because I don’t want to ruin it, but this relationship is seriously one of the most well developed I’ve ever read outside of contemp. Possibly period, ever.
The Nutshell: I realize I’m working on writing an English sized report on Illuminate, but it’s really that good. I could go on and on, but I’ll strip it down to the basics for now. 1) Fairly slow beginning, but once it gets interesting, you’ll be completely hooked. 2) Freaking fantastic characters from complex bad guys to awesome friends who are more than props in the background. 3) Haven actually grows from a timid girl to an awesome take-charge lady and the reader sees the change. 4) A slooooooooow-build relationship that is possibly one of the best I’ve seen. Ever.
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