Early Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

February 26, 2012 Review 7

*This title will be released on March 6, 2012*


Title: Illuminate
Author: Aimee Agresti
Series: Gilded Wings #1
Cover Art: N/A
Genre: Paranormal YA
Excerpt: No
Source: Publisher
Reviewed by: Abigail

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books (March 6, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0547626142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547626147

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery 

Sexual Content:



Okay – A few good points, but with significant flaws. Library/swap/borrow if you want.


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.


Angel books tend to be hit or miss for me.  More often than not I find them to be more on the hellish than heavenly side and especially prone to unoriginality.   As much as I was hoping ILLUMINATE by Aimee Agresti would be a bright exception, it wasn’t.

The writing is decent, especially in the vivid description passages of the Lexington Hotel and the exquisite architecture and art that defined Chicago in the 1920’s.  I also liked the overt nods to THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, but I had an issue with the opening premise that unfortunately set the tone for the rest of the book.  Haven and two other brilliant academics from her high school get chosen to participate in an internship living and working at the famous Lexington Hotel.  Poof, all three are excused from the rest of the school year and shipped off.  It’s a job.  They get paid.  There are no classes.  None of the adults in the story have any problem with these three teenagers essentially dropping out of school for the rest of the year to do this.  What?  If it was during the summer, that’s one thing, but this was in the middle of the school year.  Worse still, all three are assigned semi random jobs that apart from Haven’s photography, they have little to no experience with.  Like having to paint a master level mural after visiting a museum for a few hours.  It made no sense.

It didn’t help that Haven was saddled with a superficial and annoying best friend named Dante who ran around squeeing about all the hot guys he saw and dressing up Haven like she was his personal Barbie doll.  The other characters, with one exception, were also stereotypes that reoccur in every other paranormal book out there.  And wow was it long.  Plus there are these frustratingly cryptic messages that Haven gets full of meaningless platitudes and insipid lines about trusting herself and being prepared for anything.  Super helpful.

ILLUMINATE is not the heavenly read it wanted to be.  Clichéd characters, recycled plotlines, and a bloated narrative made for a tedious and uninspired read.  If you’re looking for demons and angels in YA try the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick, the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand, or THE SPACE BETWEEN by Brenna Yovanoff.  This one was a dud.

Previous Books in Series
Also Reviewed By:
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7 Responses to “Early Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti”

  1. Tynga

    I'm reading this book right now.. been on it for 4 days and I'm at page 200ish and geez I'm having a hard time with it. I got it for review and I'm debating to keep on reading or not =/

  2. Elin

    First; love the blog and your design:) Im never read this book, look lovely:) Like the cover of the book:)

  3. sara

    I really appreciate that so many authors, especially YA, are *trying* to be inclusive by including minority characters, but sometimes I feel like making them into cardboard stereotypes does more damage than good. The premise of awarding scholarships and then pulling the kids out of school sounds a bit too preposterous for me. Sounds like a case of disappearing parent syndrome.
    I've never really liked angel books because there's no inherent internal conflict to make them interesting. Werewolves have to struggle against the beast within them. Vampires must deal with the desire to kill or feed off what they once were. They're classic paranormal creatures for a reason. Internal conflicts with Angels always seem so contrived if they are there at all.

  4. Abigail

    Yep. I really had to push myself through this one. 500+ pages and it dragged almost from the first chapter. If it hadn't been sent for review, I wouldn't have finished it.

  5. Abigail

    Glad you enjoy the blog. Too bad this book didn't live up to the lovely cover (although she does actually wear the dress from the cover in the book).

  6. Abigail

    This who book was one cliche after the next. Everything felt tired and all the characters were eye rolling stereotypes. I kept thinking 'well at least she didn't have X do/say Y' and then it would happen. The sad thing is, the writing is okay and the book isn't horrible, it's just too long, too predictable, and the characters are weak. I could see the author doing something good in the future.

    And you are so right about the lack of internal conflict when dealing with angels. I hadn't really thought about that, but it's a very valid criticism.