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Book Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

1 Mar 2012

Title: Illuminate (Gilded Wings #1)
Author: Aimee Agresti 
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
Release Date: March 6th, 2012
Format: eARC 
Source: Publisher for review (Thank you!)

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.

*Phew*! Finally finished it! So, immediately after finishing it, I heaved a sigh of relief and gave myself a pat on the back for sticking with in until the end. Don't get me wrong, the book itself wasn't necessarily bad, but it WAS unnecessarily LONG. I started it last year, read until half-way, picked up another book, and didn't come back to it until early this year. I'll be honest, I did skim through quite a lot of pages, and due to the incredibly long time in which it took to build up the suspense and tension, the climax unfortunately felt very anti-climatic to me. I was reading for the sake of finishing, so the second- half of the book didn't appeal to me the way I would've liked it to.

The characters unfortunately felt bland to me; I never connected with Haven nor Lance, and they just seemed devoid of personality. While I didn't dislike Haven, she truly doesn't stand out amongst all the other YA heroines out there. The only characters that made an impression on me were Lucian, and Aurelia, but neither were exceptionally memorable either ( unfortunately ). I remember Aurelia as the cold, stony-faced boss who would order Haven around and demand everything be done on time, yet there was also a frightened and vulnerable side to her; one that she kept hidden behind her mask of beauty and confidence.  Other than her, ( and sometimes Lucian) the other character failed to leave a lasting impression on me.

Like I said above, the book's downfall is definitely its overly long length. It really killed all my initial excitement until I was soon begging for something, ANYTHING interesting to happen. I'm certain that had this been half as long, with all the parts that dragged cut out, I would be here, gushing and raving about how incredibly amazing it was!

What did leave an impression on me was the special friendship the main characters shared with one another. For a change, friendship takes priority over romance, and I'm sincerely glad for this change! While I wasn't overjoyed at what became of Haven's relationship with Lance (friendship definitely suits them more!), but I'll take comfort in the months they spent as trusted, loyal friends who worked together and helped each other out in times of crisis.

Overall, a highly recommended read for anyone who likes a change from the normal, romance-driven PNR, ( and of course who isn't affected by scary 500+ pages of words to read). There is definite potential in this series, so I'll be looking out for the second book!


  1. I've wanted to read this for a while, but I've seen a few reviews lately similar to yours with similar problems. I'm still eager to read it but I admit I'm a bit more weary now.
    Great, honest review Shirely!! <3

  2. LOL I know what you mean about the length, Shirley -- it was SO LONG!! x) It took me so much longer than it usually would to read this book, and it would've done much more for the tension if it was a hundred pages shorter! There's no rule that says all amazing books have to be Cassie-Clare-book length LOL; it has to be really fast-paced and interesting for that to work! x) (Besides, sometimes short & sweet books make getting through our ginormous TBR piles a little less scary haha!)

    And ohmygosh I loved Haven & Lance's friendship-to-romance too!! Definite break from insta-love! ;)

    This was an AMAZING review, Shirley! Thank you so much for sharing your honest thoughts! <3 Despite the length, I really enjoyed this book too and I'll be watching for the second book like you! :D

  3. Holy cow, is it really 500 plus pages?? That just seems unnecessary-I get antsy when a book is like 450 pages. Bland characters are the absolute worst though, absolutely no reason to stick with a book when the characters don't demand your itnerest, so kudos to you for finally finishing it. :p

    Although I'll probably still pick this one up, I kind of have a Chicago bias so...:p

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre
    Check Out Du Livre's Latest Post: Cover Reveal and ARC giveaway

  4. I used to devour books with 500+ page count once upon a time (I still do where HP is concerned!) but nowadays, they're so hard to get through when you have a huge TBR waiting to be reviewed! But it's even more difficult when they FEEL long. Some books need that amount, others... when they're dragged out, it drags YOU down while reading =\ Sucks to hear this was one of those for you!

    And very unfortunate the characters didn't make a more lasting impression, since they're the tofu of a novel (I was going to say meat, but tofu is more fitting for me :P Except that... tofu is bland when not marinated or whatever so.... OKAY ANYWAY). I'm glad some parts were still enjoyable, but sorry this didn't live up to expectations! Still, brilliant review :D

  5. I know what you mean. Illuminate been sitting on my shelf for forever and it's because of the thickness of the book. And also the prints are soooooo TINY. I agree with Brodie; I used to read 500+ pages with no problem. But I don't know if I'll be saying the same for Illuminate when I check it out. Thanks for your honest review.

  6. MEEE TOOO!!!! (Dude even if HP was like 3000000+ pages I WOULD STILL READ IT!! Since we're on the topic, I'M SOOO FREAKING EXCITED FOR ROWLING'S NEW BOOK!!! The woman's seriously a GODDESS <3)
    Ehh...I actually don't mind long books, but most of the REALLY long one's I've read recently are just...well unnecessarily long! (Unlike HP! But NOTHING CAN COMPARE TO HP)
    LOL pshhh Brodie getting sidetracked is hilarious <3 How did you even come up with TOFU? hahaaaa but I LOVE tofu so yeahhh :DDD

  7. Wow. 500+ pages is really damn long. D: Congrats to finishing it! If the book was really faced paced, like something like Divergent or Clockwork Prince (neither of them were over 500, but they were ALMOST 500. :P) you barely notice the length but, yeah, if nothing much happened I can understand you putting the book down and then having to pick it up later. If a book is going to be long, it needs to be long for a REASON!

    It's a shame that the characters didn't make much of a lasting impression on you. But at least the change of friendship over romance made it a little bit interesting. ;D I still think I'll pick this one up and give it a try...but I'll keep in mind of its length. I might look into it when I have more TIME (aka not during school!)

  8. hmm interesting, Ive always liked this cover though I never really picked it up, still sounds interesting. Great review shirley! xx

  9. 500pgs seems a little extreme for a novel like this one (even though I prefer longer books and such) but I'm still interested. Great review.


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