Illuminate (Gilded Wings, Book #1)
by Aimee Agresti
Release Date: March 6, 2012
2012 Harcourt Children's Books
Hardcover Edition; 528 Pages
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
3.5 / 5 Stars
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.
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 a beautifully written novel with an interesting plotline and some fairly interesting characters. Despite all this, it took me quite a long time to finish this novel as I did find the plot to be somewhat tedious at times and drawn-out. Because of this, I would often go searching for something else to read and return to this book later so it seemed to lack something of a draw power for me that would keep me reading steadily for long periods of time.
While I did find the plot to be interesting, if somewhat slow, there were elements to it that I had to buy into in order to believe in this novel. Let me explain. First of all, I really enjoyed the setting as I am quite familiar with Al Capone and the days of the Roaring Twenties and thought the references to that time period were quite interesting; in fact, I would have liked to have seen more considering the hotel was based on that era and on that persona. Secondly, the concept of breed of evil doers taking over the world through recruitment was more unique that some other things I had read lately and I was rather intrigued by the concept. Buying people's souls was definitely not a new concept, but the way in which it was done was rather different and I enjoyed it. However, the reader would also have to buy into a few other things that were not quite as easy to get over in order to be fully invested into this novel, one of them being Haven's scholarship. Winning a scholarship that one did not even enter is virtually impossible, and for people to not even question it seems somewhat bizarre to me given you have no idea what you are getting into. Furthermore, there is no way I would ever drop off a sixteen-year-old child of mine outside of a building without meeting the scholarship owners, leave him to fend for himself, and then not wonder at the lack of communication over the next few months.
I did enjoy the characters, but I will admit that I tended to find the evil ones more interesting than Haven or Lance as they seemed to have more character and personality. Haven, until the end, tended to follow along blindly and do whatever she was told and this did grate on my nerves somewhat. I realize she was only sixteen-years-old, but she could have a backbone once in a while; I did like her a lot more towards the last third of the novel as she seemed to develop a bit more personality and fighting strength and power.. I was glad to see this as it gave me hope that perhaps her character will further develop in the second novel as she grows stronger in her powers. Dante and Lance, while enjoyable, seemed to have gotten lost within the story and didn't really stand out much for me; they were the stereotypical gay boy and nerd and were definitely cast as such in this novel. I would definitely like to see Lance develop into his own strong personality as it could be quite interesting. The one I liked the most however, was Lucian. I liked how complicated he was, switching back and forth from nice guy to mean guy as you never knew what to expect. With the conflict he was going through, I would have liked to have seen more scenes where this struggle was more apparent as it could have been quite fascinating.
Illuminate has a very interesting concept and while there were many twists in the novel, I did find the lack of character and plot development somewhat of a deterrent for me. This series does have a lot of potential however, and there is a lot of room for the characters to grow and develop as well as for the plot to really twist and turn and give the reader the gripping tale one is looking for as we search for answers to many of the unanswered questions left at the end of Illuminate. I do know that I am not finished with this series quite yet, and will definitely take a look at Infatuate when it is released in 2013.