Luminous is all kinds of weird. It’s also extremely ambitious in its genre-defying, maddeningly original setting and story line. It’s fantasy, murder mystery, and coming-of-age. It’s grotesque, and yet, sometimes even beautiful. It’s not for the faint of heart.
In Luminous, Consuela Chavez gets mysteriously transported to the Flow, a realm “layered over our own,” with its own rules of time and space. In the Flow she gains the ability to shed her skin, becoming a skeleton, and create and wear the skins of organic materials, like water, fire, and butterflies (see cover). She also meets men and women in the Flow, who, like herself, have strange and extraordinary powers. Sissy the Watcher can detach her body parts and use them as scouts, V can travel through mirrors, and Joseph Crow can turn into a crow. Yet even as Consuela learns about the Flow and its inhabitants, finding joy and confidence in her new abilities as well as friendship and romance, a dangerous evil lurks in this new world. When people in the Flow begin to get murdered, one by one, it is up to Consuela, a Game-Changer, to stop the menace and save the new world she has come to love, as well as the old world she longs to return to.
I’ll be honest with you, it took me awhile to get into this book, and I found myself making faces at the text for the first 150 pages or so. Because, within these beginning pages of setup and world-building, the reader is pretty much bombarded with vague explanations of the Flow from a multitude of transient characters, appearing and disappearing like prairie dogs. What’s it like, Consuela, the pull of the Flow? Oh, it’s you know … “vague” … and … “indescribable.” I’ll try to describe it, I guess. It’s immutable, ever changing, connected to Earth, but not. What? Anyway, after page 159, and a pretty sexy kiss scene (Is it coincidental that the kiss scene is the harbinger of exciting plot twists!?), the book picks up in action, with an intense finale.
Consuela awesomely spends the majority of the book as a glowing skeleton, and the whole theme of everyone being the same once all your hair, skin, and eyeballs are taken away, and all that’s left is bones, is interesting, although a little problematic because its those features which give a person a semblance of individualism, and even, culture. Tender was my favorite character in the book because he’s so strange and morally messed up. He also carries around a pretty badass sword and has lines like: “Until then, Bones. At the end of the world.” V’s a little too self-righteous for my tastes, but I did like that he was flawed. The other characters are fleeting, but their little moments in the book have presence, especially the Yad, whose power is drawing seals with his own blood to protect children.
The tone of Luminous is very dark. Some of the descriptions are violent and frightening. Off-putting and yet, enthralling. I give props to the author for keeping a pervasive tone as well as being truly original. The writing can be jilting at times, with a lot of short sentences, but at other times, the descriptions in the prose are just wonderful to read and feed the imagination with, like Consuela thinking V looks fragile as he stumbles, his legs having fallen asleep, or Tender moving through the air as if he were climbing stairs. Magic.
I give this book 3 out of 5 stars because although I loved moments in it, I only liked it overall.
If Axie were a book, she would be a young adult one featuring a kick-butt heroine in a fantastical setting, or maybe a middle-grade one about a boy coming-of-age (even though she is a 21 year old female). She likes to eat, watch shows (reality t.v., Korean dramas, and anime), read, read, read, sleep, and then dream (in that order). You probably can’t find her lolling about online, since her online presence is sorely lacking, but she is very friendly and would speak to you if you spoke to her.