Book Review : Illuminations

Book Review : IlluminationsIlluminations by T. Kingfisher
Published by Red Wombat Studio on November 25th 2022
Genres: Coming of Age, Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 248
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or
Find on Goodreads

Rosa Mandolini knows in her heart that her family are the greatest painters of magical illuminations in the city. But the eccentric Studio Mandolini has fallen on hard times and the future is no longer certain.
While trying to help her family, Rosa discovers a strange magical box protected by a painted crow. But when she finds a way to open the box, she accidentally releases the Scarling, a vicious monster determined to destroy the Mandolini family at any cost.
With the aid of her former best friend and a painted crow named Payne, it’s up to Rosa to stop the Scarling before it unmakes the magical paintings that keep the city running, and hopefully save her family in the process!

Whenever I need a bit of a feel-good pick me-up story, I reach for a T. Kingfisher work—even if it’s horror. I just love the originality and eccentricity of her stories and Illuminations is no exception to this rule. Illuminations follows the youngest daughter, Rosa, of one of the most well-known and famous illuminator families. Illuminations are magically imbued drawings that serve specific purposes, like a drawing of a cat with blue eyes to keep mice away, for example.


Ten-year-old Rosa hopes to one day grow up to be an Illuminator herself, but hasn’t quite managed to turn her fanged radishes into anything more than art. But Rosa succeeds at opening a magical box hidden away in her basement, which frees a talking crow, and a whole other can of worms. I have to say that the big draw for me picking up this T. Kingfisher book was the talking crow. And I wasn’t disappointed, this shiny-obsessed crow is delightful and exactly like what I would imagine an actual loquacious crow to be like.


“‘Why were you under the bed?’

 ‘I was…um…doing something….’

‘Did the something involve shiny things?”
‘That is completely irrelevant,’ said Payne. He scowled as well as one could with a beak instead of lips. ‘It is possible that shininess was involved, but I don’t see how it matters.’”


But the talking crow isn’t the only thing going for this story, Rosa and her eccentric family of illuminators are incredibly endearing. Rosa is such a sweet child, who only wants to help her family succeed in their endeavors. Her somewhat contentious relationship with her best friend and daughter of rival illuminator clan, Serena, is also incredibly relatable to anyone who ever grew up with girl friends or older sisters. I also truly adored the rest of her family, especially her coffee-addicted Aunt Nadia, who often had me giggling aloud, and her wise Uncle Alfonso. Though there’s plenty of magic to be held in this tale, the true magic is in the relationships that Kingfisher effortlessly weaves between all of her characters, even those who don’t have much time on the page. I even found myself choked up and with tears in my eyes at one part in the novel. 


“Uncle Alfonso smiled. ‘You put your heart into them. That’s what matters. Every illumination takes a piece of the painter’s heart, and that is why the magic works.’”


My only complaint was that I had a bit of trouble getting into the novel at first. Even though I was interested in the magic system and the characters from the get-go, I just found that things initially unfolded a bit too slowly for my liking. But I’m so glad I stuck with the novel, as once it gets going, it really never stops until the novel comes to a very satisfying and heartwarming conclusion.


Book Review : Illuminations - Blogging with Dragons

Posted January 19, 2024 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

Tags: , ,

4 responses to “Book Review : Illuminations

  1. Nice review! Everyone seems to enjoy Kingfisher’s works and I have a lot of her backlog to get to. This one looks unique, as seems to be the author’s signature style. I’m (very) slowly working through her backlog, right now with WHAT MOVES THE DEAD.

    • Thank you, Celeste! ? That’s great–I really loved What Moves the Dead and I hope you enjoy it too! One of my other favorite of T. Kingfisher’s is A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking–if you need a fun and light read, be sure to check it out

Geek Out:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.