Book Review: “Illuminate” by Aimee Agresti (Gilded Wings #1)

One thing I can say in favor of this book-- the cover is beautiful.

Title: Illuminate (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Aimee Agresti

Available In: Hardcover, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook.

Maturity Level: YA. Gore, violence, sexuality, but no language.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy slow-moving and slow-developing plots; you have a strong base in Judeo-Christian angel/demon mythology; you’re a fan of Twilight, Hush Hush, or Evernight.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you’re looking for something fast-paced; you enjoy fresher takes on angel/demon mythology such as Angelfall; you don’t like “angel books”.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS AND STRONG OPINIONS.

Let me start off by saying that I really did want to love this book. It has a lovely cover (that, as many people have pointed out) is actually relevant to an event that takes place in the book. The main character, Haven, is a smart honors student with a bright future ahead of her and a mysterious past. It should have been wonderful, but unfortunately, it came off as rather flat instead.

Part of the problem with this book is that NOTHING HAPPENS. Literally. The majority of the first half is taken up with photography and sleep on Haven’s part, along with a rather creepy romantic relationship that she develops with her boss. I found myself nodding off at times— and I’m not the girl who falls asleep reading. The plot is so vague that had I not gone into this knowing that it was an angel book, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the angel/demon overtones.

Which brings me to another issue: the mythology. It’s not a particularly inspired take on angel/demon mythos. The angels in this book represent Ultimate Good and behave as such—when they’re not being overly emotional, whiny teens or invisibly writing in notebooks. As a mildly agnostic atheist who has read pretty extensively about religions all around the world, I actually found this portrayal to be startlingly inaccurate, given that the A’s are, in fact, badass soldiers of God who have been known to level entire civilizations before in the pursuit of their goal. I’m not poking at anyone’s belief systems here, but to me, that’s a complicated moral conundrum, and I like it when my angels are aware of that (Raffe from Angelfall is a pretty good example) and either choose to leave/reform that society (I’m thinking season 6!revolutionary!Castiel of Supernatural) or make their peace with it and go on (to some extent, Raffe, although he is a self-professed agnostic). I do not like it when they are the only good guys, and I dislike whiny emo teenagers in general, so that’s two strikes against this book. Also, the demons didn’t frighten me AT ALL. They sat around getting their pictures taken and occasionally stealing souls/killing people, and didn’t do much else until the final 20 pages. Even Lucifer was pretty lukewarm. (Oh, the irony.)

Now, there were a few things I liked that stopped this book from going in the DNF pile. I liked Dante and Lance quite a bit, and the descriptions of the hotel and the historical 20’s tidbits were quite nice. Unfortunately, they didn’t make up for the overwhelming slowness or the patchy mythology, resulting in the 2.5 star rating.

Pros

  • 20’s/Capone background details.
  • Dante.
  • Lance.
  • The luscious descriptions of the hotel.

Cons

  • Really long beginning.
  • To paraphrase my notes, “creepy ewww boss romance”.
  • Dante’s stereotypical “gay bestie” attitude.
  • The overwrought, very purple prose.
  • Waaaaayyy too long.
  • Nothing happens until the last twenty pages.
  • The stupid notebook subplot.

Favorite Scene (s): On page 307, things are kind of getting badass and hardcore as people literally sign their souls away…. And then Haven starts musing about sanitation and I lose all interest whatsoever.

Favorite Line(s): “Answer correctly, and you have further cemented your reputation as a brainy, hopeless outcast. Answer incorrectly, and not only are you considered a bookish nerd, but you’re even bad at that.”~pg 3

Star Rating on Goodreads: 2.5 out of 5.

Final Grade: C. Might read sequels, will probably not reread.

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