by Susan Dennard
In this book we follow Winnie on her quest to become a hunter of nightmares. Every night the forest in Hemlock Falls turns into a deadly trap. Nightmares spawn here, and the hunters of an ancient order called the Luminaries are tasked with protecting Hemlock Falls, and the rest of the world, from these terrible creatures.
All Winnie wants is to become one of them, a task easier said than done after her father was deemed a traitor and the whole family was branded as outcast because of it. But Winnie won’t give up her dream and decides to undergo the hunter trials despite what everyone else thinks of her.
So, this book has some really great parts, and some less great parts. I think the core of the story is great, and the premise and the idea here was super interesting. These nightmares in the woods and this hidden away town and the order. There were so many great things that made me interested in the story. And I think Winnie was a good character to tell this story.
The worldbuilding is good, and it’s incorporated in the story in such a way that it doesn’t feel like worldbuilding. It comes naturally and I really like that. The writing is also good and flows really well (even if I wish there’d been fewer teeth clicking). Dialogue seems natural and the characters are fairly well-developed.
I do think there’s a lot of unnecessary things going on here, though. It’s a bit slow. And the focus is always on Winnie’s feelings, and it gets a bit repetitive after a while. There are so many interesting things going on here that I’d like the focus to be on. Like the lore of this place, the history, the “magic school” and the monsters and the monster hunting. That’s the things I want to read about, not the same old thoughts and feelings that Winnie has over and over again.
But, this is a good book, and the writing is solid, and the world is well-developed and the characters too.
I do, however, feel like there were too many unresolved things in the end. It felt rushed and unfinished. When I really started to get into the book and didn’t want to put it down, I realized I was at over 90% in. At that point I realized I’d not be satisfied with the ending, and I was right. When the book started to take off, it was over, and there weren’t enough answers to all the questions and hints that had been planted. Sure, there will be a sequel, but personally, I want to feel satisfied after reading a book no matter if it’s the first in a series. I want to feel like the main threads in the book has been tied up. I don’t want to be left feeling like a massive question mark and flipping through the final pages thinking I must have missed something.
For me, this book is a solid 3.5 stars. It had the potential of a 5-star book, but ultimately fell a bit short due to pacing and lack of payoff in the end. I’ll roundup to 4 stars because I’m feeling nice today and I did enjoy reading this book for the most part.