Monday, March 05, 2012

Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

Aimee Agresti
Series: Gilded Wings, #1
Release date: March 6th, 2012
by Harcourt Children's Books

Goodreads / Purchase
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?
*A copy was provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review purposes*

Illuminate, with its enchanting cover and alluring premise, gives us a tale full of beauty, mystery and deception. Although it failed to wow me, I was left enthralled by the mystery, and fascinated by the glamor.

Haven and two class-mates, one of them being her best friend, are chosen for an internship at an over the top luxurious hotel. Soon after they arrive, however, Haven starts to notice things are a bit… off. We begin with exploring this majestic hotel: The elegant decor, the perfect employees, the vibrant night club - it's all described wonderfully with enough details to make you visualize all of this beauty. Even the somber passages become alive with its intimidating ambiance. As the plot takes a very long time to move along, we get well acquainted with this hotel through Haven, who is instructed to learn all that she can about the inner workings. I was so enraptured by the extraordinary perfection, in addition to the unusual happenings, that the slow pace took a while to catch up to me, but eventually it did. A bit past the half way mark I started to become less fascinated by it all, and simply wanted to move on to some action. The secrets are divulged in such a slow, steady way that I never felt the excitement of apprehension, I merely strolled through, nodding my head, while everything leisurely fell into place. It was still interesting, but not so exciting.

We've got some enjoyable characters that help make the slow pace a bit more satisfactory. Haven herself is a tad hard to relate to, though. Nerdy, bookish, keeping to herself, but suddenly acquiring great fashion and social abilities; I had a hard time placing her personality. Dante is also very cliché being the gay character who likes to gossip, cook and fix hair. I did, however, love Lucian and Lance. Lucian has a certain mystique that makes him a particularly intriguing character, and Lance, the most in-depth character in my opinion, went from shy loner boy to star of the show by the end of this book. I loved his personality; how he always stood by Haven and gave her someone to truly trust.

Although I did quite like the plot overall, as I mentioned it was a tad long-winded, but also had a few sketchy details. Haven's bizarre childhood - abandoned in a ditch - is only vaguely referenced. We don't find out a whole lot about her supposed powers or purpose either. Then, we've got this cryptic book giving her vague messages that she barely questions before trusting it completely. I wonder why she didn't just pack up and leave - I know that's what I would have done. But I'm a wuss so.. *shrugs*

With excellent writing and breathtaking scenery - illuminate is a satisfying debut that, even though I wasn't enamored by it, I enjoyed it enough to recommend it, and will definitely be continuing the series.  

3 Hot Espressos