From the author of Crown of Coral and Pearl comes an immersive new fantasy about a witch who must learn to harness her power—or risk losing her loved ones forever. Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to. To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos—and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.
However, everything begins to change when she stumbles upon another mage, the woman next door, whose son Liora happens to be in love with, when she was heading to find her sister. Although the other mage, Margana, tries to hide her when Darius later arrives in town, he figures out her secret and takes her younger sister as collateral, while Liora acts as apprentice to Margana. As she does so, she begins to learn more about magic, herself, and the world in which she lives. Liora is soon caught in a web she never could have expected with the existing world on the line.
What I loved: The plot was really imaginative, and I appreciated the manifestation of magic in this world, with every person who has magic having a particular affinity. Liora was a compelling character, who strove to keep her family safe, while also caring about those she meets. There are a lot of intriguing side characters as well who add something special to the story, such as those whom Mina befriends and even Darius himself.
There are thought-provoking themes around politics, magic, emotions, family, and lies/truth throughout the story. Magic here is often maligned, but the inherent goodness or evilness is not so simple. Liora has always seen things the way she was taught by her father, and she comes into her own as she learns more about the world around her. The things she has been told and the truth (or the truths she comes to understand) are not always the same, and the motivations could be assigned their own morality. There are also bigger things at play at the kingdom-level, where magic makes the impossible possible, and there are questions about politics, right to rule, and qualities of a good ruler. Furthermore, the power of emotions and the value of having them are discussed throughout, as Liora makes sense of what she and others feel - or don't, in some cases. This look at emotions/feelings can resonate well for some readers, particularly in terms of how those make an individual react to the world surrounding them.
What left me wanting more: The pacing was very slow at first and speeds up dramatically at the end, leaving me feeling like too much was compressed in some places. I almost felt that this could have been a couple books with more lead up to the resolutions. I would have appreciated more build-up of the relationship as well, as it is basically pre-established, and we do not get to see it grow much, mainly just the push-pull of yes and no to being together. I also would have loved to learn more about the history of magic, this world, and the scope of individuals' powers (Evran in particular but others would be intriguing too).
Final verdict: Overall, LUMINOUS is an intriguing and imaginative YA fantasy about family, power, and the value of emotion. Would recommend for fans of SHADOW AND BONE, WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, and BEWARE THE NIGHT.