Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

8:00 AM

Title: Illuminate (Gilded Wings #1)
Author: Aimee Agresti
Release Date: March 6, 2012 (hardcover)
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 528
Source: Copy provided by publisher

Overall: 4.5 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. 

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.  

My Thoughts: 
When I first held a copy of Illuminate in my hands, the thought of reading the book suddenly became rather daunting. Over 500 pages long and a font that's rather on the small side, I knew I was going to be in for quite an adventure alongside Haven. Nevertheless, after a bit of slow start, the pacing picked up and I found myself captivated by Aimee Agresti's Illuminate.

I loved the not-so-typical approach to the paranormal that has Aimee Agresti has taken in her debut novel. The romance could have easily overshadowed the storyline, but instead, the plot stays very faithful to Haven trying to discover the dark secrets her new boss, Aurelia, is hiding at the swanky Lexington Hotel. Because when Haven and her two classmates, Lance and Dante, are selected for a prestigious internship at a hotel that has quickly risen to become the belle of Chicago's business world, she can't shake the feeling that something isn't right.

What I really liked about Haven's character is that she's not afraid to trust her instincts. When she first sees Lucian, like any girl, she's drawn to his handsome features... but she still keeps her wits about her when she attracts his attention. Even when she begins to suspect things are not all what they appear to be at the hotel, she keeps her opinions to herself and doesn't raise any suspicion. She continues to do her photography job well and tries to keep a low profile, all the while trying to find out what Aurelia is really up to. The steady friendship she forms with Lance is also a very sweet one, with a natural chemistry that left me slowly falling for him more and more as the story carried on...

The novel may draw inspiration from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, but Aimee Agresti has given her own spin to the tale in a completely original way. I'm already eagerly anticipating the next novel in the Gilded Wings series and learning more about Haven's abilities as she continues to save souls from evil. Illuminate is a perfect read for those who enjoy well-drawn out romance, glamour, and the supernatural!

Thanks so much to Thomas Allen & Son for providing this review copy! I've also included the book trailer for the novel below. Enjoy!

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  1. I saw this everywhere... there cover is so gorgeous, but I haven't read it yet. Looking forward to picking up a copy after reading your review. Thanks again for a great one!

    1. Yay! I'm glad to hear that, Chrystal! And I totally agree, the cover is so pretty!

  2. Great review Liz! I love that you mentioned Agresti's new spin on Dorian Grey--that was the main selling point of the novel for me.

    1. I thought Josephine Angelini's quote on the cover of the boo really sums up the book well. I haven't read Dorien Grey, but I know what it's about... and Aimee Agresti has really done a wonderful putting a spin on it.

  3. I really like the trailer and I like The Portrait of Dorian Gray (A LOT) but I don't know, I'm mistrustful of debut authors who write 500+ first books (worse if it's smallish font) 'cause it immediately makes me think they lack editing skills.

    I loved your review, but the size of this book is a major turn off for me. :(

    1. Awwww, that's okay. I showed the book to my sister, hoping she would consider reading it, and the lengthiness was a turn off for her too. So you're not alone! There probably could have been scenes cut out, but overall, it seemed to help build the mystery more, so I kind of just rolled with it. But yes, I would definitely say I was a surprised at first to see how long the story was.

  4. I just love its cover! I had never seen te trailer before, but it looks great. Great review!

    1. Thank you, Danielle! I hope you get a chance to check out the book. :)

  5. my sweet!
    how u doing! it;s been a while =D
    Im happy you enjoyed this one! I wasnt very sure yet but now I know I HAVE to get this book in my hands =D. Im finally done with university yay! so I'll have time to read all of these awesome books!

    great review my Liz!! ^__^

    1. My classes finish next Tuesday and then I'll be on break too! ^.^ You probably have some other books on your review pile to read first, but hopefully you can get your hands on a copy of Illuminate soon. I'll be looking forward to seeing what you think about the book.