Review: Illuminate

Illuminate (Gilded Wings #1)Haven is a regular, nerdy high school student when she’s chosen along with two of her classmates for an internship at an upscale hotel in Chicago.

As Haven becomes acquainted with Aurelia, the hotel’s young, stylish owner, Lucian, her devilishly handsome right hand man, and their glamorous, gorgeous staff, called The Outfit, she discovers that things aren’t exactly as they seem.

When she starts receiving strange instructions in an old notebook, Haven discovers that her and her friends weren’t just recruited for an internship, but to join an evil organization, one that is dead-set on recruiting them to their efforts. But as Haven’s time at the Lexington Hotel runs out, she has to make a decision between an easy life or one filled with hardship.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Illuminate. I expected it to be like so many other YA angel novels, filled with teenage angst, a brooding, rude love interest, and some shiny wings. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Unlike so many other YA angel books, Illuminate doesn’t start off by showing Haven discovering that she’s an angel, and then dealing with her new-found powers. Instead, the story starts off with Haven and her friends being recruited by a powerful group of individuals, one who promise the young, naive group of teens everything they could ever want. Instead, the book is more about Haven’s discovery of herself and her strength. The angel discovery doesn’t happen till much later in the book, and I really enjoyed the detective style of the story, as Haven struggles to put all the pieces together.

The pace of Illuminate is quite slow. While this can also be considered a negative factor, for me, it was a plus factor. Like I mentioned before, the book isn’t so much about becoming an angel or discovering all sorts of magical powers. As an outcast at school, the book is more about overcoming that awkward stage of being teen, where you don’t like anything about yourself. It’s about Haven embracing herself, flaws and all, and finding a place in the world for herself. It’s about discovering strength where you didn’t think any was possible. It’s about being offered the possibility of everything you could ever want, right now, and making that hard decision. While the actual plot of the story might be considered slow, I loved Haven’s road of self-discovery.

Haven is a pretty awesome character. At sixteen, she isn’t really interested in partying or having a good time; she’s a forward thinker and spends a lot of time thinking about how her actions will impact her future. She reminded me a lot of of myself, and I liked seeing how her caution served her well. As she becomes submerged in the luxurious life of the hotel and starts receiving the attentions of handsome Lucian, she doesn’t suddenly change or start ignoring her friends, like so many other flaky YA heroines. She’s loyal, a hard worker, and perseveres. She isn’t perfect, and is filled with doubts about herself and about her feelings, and this makes her a well-rounded, believable character.

The romance, as well, was one of my favourite parts. From the cover copy, it sounded pretty typical; Lucian, the handsome, older guy, would come in and sweep Haven off her feet, and at the beginning of the story, it seemed like that would happen. But Haven’s a smart girl, and as soon as she becomes suspicious of Aurelia and the hotel, she starts seeing things differently. She doesn’t get swept away or let her feelings consume her; they’re still there, but Haven has more important things to worry about: like staying alive and getting her friends out of the hotel alive.

There’s a lot of action at the end, which sort of makes up for the slower plot, and things wrap up nicely. But as Haven discovers the nature of her powers, there’s also a hint of more adventures to come.

All in all, Illuminate was a highly enjoyable read, filled with a slow, simmering plot, a cast of great characters, and a sweet romance. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

So for that: 4.5/5.

Thanks for reading,


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  1. Natalie says:

    I never would have guessed that this was an Angel novel! The synopsis definitely doesn’t hint at it. It’s been on my reading this for months now, and I almost picked up a copy of it at work this week. I’ll have to make the time to check it out now.
    Natalie recently posted…Book Review: RevealedMy Profile

    • Ikhlas says:

      Yeah, it’s a sort of mild spoiler. The synopsis doesn’t hint at it, but you can see the outline of wings on her on the cover so I think a lot of people made the connection. If you read it, let me know how you like it!

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