Blurb from Goodreads:
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.
A witch who must learn to harness her power–or risk losing her loved ones forever.
If you’ve read Mara Rutherford’s Crown of Coral and Pearl duology, you know she has a knack for charismatic scene-stealing villains and her newest book LUMINOUS is no different. We’re introduced to Darius, a powerful mage and the king’s right hand who rules the land by proxy, who is super compelling and I have to admit I was rooting for him throughout the book. Sure, he’s the bad guy, but I really enjoy when an author makes them understandable (not by trying to justify what they’re doing, but giving them believable motives than just ‘born evil’) plus I’m a sucker for the ‘Friendly Enemy’ trope.
Our heroine Liora has spent her life hidden away in a small village in the middle of nowhere to keep her safe from Darius, who collects magic-users for his own purposes. Liora’s repressed her magic as much as possible, but after she’s revealed to be a witch, she’s drawn into danger as a diabolical plan unfolds that threatens everyone she loves and the only way out is to rely on her magic.
In a lot of ways, I found her to be a pretty typical YA fantasy lead – sheltered and naive, in love with her best friend, low on self-esteem yet recklessly overconfident. However I did like her self-awareness in recognizing her selfish tendencies at times when she wanted to be special, hoped to be noticed and prioritized her magic over a quiet dull life because that felt relatable.
I also liked Liora’s dynamic with her sisters and that she stood up to her father when he tried to stifle her, but the romance with Evran fell flat for me. His lack of communication and unwillingness to trust her even when he knew that she was hurting because of his abandonment made it seem toxic. PSA: don’t ghost people for their own good, that’s nonsense! There are two minor female characters introduced that I enjoyed and wished played a bigger role, but the major focus is on Liora’s coming-of-age arc.
This fast-paced standalone fantasy is a fun read with a bunch of entertaining plot twists. It had enough material to fill a duology and felt a bit too easily resolved at the end, but it kept me engaged all the way through.
Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.