Luminescence by Braden Bell: A Book Review

Luminescence by Braden Bell is the third and final installment to his Middle School Magic Series. (I have reviewed The Kindling and Penumbras, the first two books in the series, HERE and HERE.)

In my last review I said that I was so excited to read the final installment of this series that I would even be willing to dress up as Dr. Timberi and stand outside a bookstore at midnight if it meant I could get it faster. So I was super excited to finally have this book in my hands, and I was not disappointed.

The last book ended on a sad note—but a sad note that had hope in it. When my daughter finished the second book, I went upstairs around midnight to find her sitting on a chair bawling her eyes out. It melted my heart and gave us a nice opportunity to discuss the book and all of its wonderful themes.

Luminescence continues with the themes of light and darkness that have played a large role in the past books, but this time those themes broaden as the kids have to make some very difficult decisions. The result is a beautiful story of love, sacrifice, and redemption that maybe even made me bawl my own eyes out. (And it was probably in the middle of the night, too, since that is when all good reading takes place.)

I truly love this series, and think it is one that all kids should read. My middle daughter and I have had some really lovely discussions about life and choices due to these books, and I think I’ll start reading them out loud to my youngest soon.

If you have children who like to read the fantasy genre, they will love this series.

My daughter and I had some fun this week taking the sigil test on the author’s website (update: no longer available). If you’ve read the books, you know about the light sigils that the magi are able to make, and that each one is unique to the magus who makes it. It turns out that my sigil is a swan, and my daughter was super excited to learn that hers is a parrot (because she is fun, social, and highly intelligent)(which is completely correct). You can also read the first few chapters of Luminescence on Braden’s website, but if you do, you’ll be hooked and need to go buy the book. Fair warning.

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Rebecca H.

As they like two series by Shannon Hale, you should look into getting Austenland. Also by Shannon Hale. Not marketed as a tween book, but no language or sex. It would be appropriate. It is about a lady obsessed with Jane Austen, searching for her Mr. Darcy, so much so that she goes to a role playing vacation focused on Austen's world. May be a great entry point to inspire reading the Austenclassics. There is also a movie of the same name. PG13 I believe.

Braden Bell

What a beautiful review, Lara! Thank you so much for your time reading and reviewing these books. Hearing about the emotional connection makes me so happy!

Emily Harper Waggoner Fish

Yummy, I keep a look out for yummy GF treats for when I am craving something. Can't wait to try

Deborah Burman Carasso

Thank you so very much for mentioning "feeling worse" in the beginning of the diet. I'm following the Low Fodmap diet and in some ways, definately feel worse and nowhere did it mention this. How long does it take to cleanse yourself of the gluten toxins? Thanks for your help. I look forward to hearing from you.


Hi Deborah–

The general consensus is that it can take 3-4 months to completely rid the body of gluten antibodies. Depending on your personal gluten sensitivities, it might take that long to really start feeling better. However, with my daughter who has Celiac, it probably only took her a month before we noticed a marked change in how she was feeling. I do not have Celiac, and I'd say it took me 2-3 weeks to start feeling more energetic.

If you feel like you are not feeling enough better after a few weeks, make sure you have eliminated ALL gluten from your diet. If you are extremely sensitive, even trace gluten can wreak havoc. I'm not familiar with the Low Foodmap diet, so I'm not sure what is and isn't allowed. But with any elimination diet you are going to have a toxin die-off in the beginning whether it's sugar, gluten, dairy, or something else you react to.

Good luck to you! It's hard at first, but it just gets easier, I promise.


Yes! We have both Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. I haven't had my daughters read them yet, but I certainly enjoyed both books.

Good idea about it being a gateway to real Austen books! I might stick it into my teenager's reading bin this summer. Thanks for stopping by!


You might also want to check out The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, it is the first book in a new series, and follows the adventures of two siblings that become trapped in a book of fairy tales. Some of the story is a little emotional, the twins father had passed away, so be aware of whether your child is reay for that, but it is a good story so far.

The Percy Jackson seies is really good. My 8 year old isn't quite ready for them, but I am rapidly consuming them, with the hope that she might one day.


Thank you, Elli! It's going on my list now. I'm always looking for new books for my kids and these sound really great.

Megan Kubasch

I love this post. A few of my family members have gluten sensitivities, and a couple have been diagnosed with Celiac's disease. I often wonder if I also have Celiac's disease, simply because I typically feel sick after eating bread/grain products. Even though I love them, I still don't feel like myself. I have been trying to transition to gluten-free products, but my husband sees the price tag and has a conniption. Which products do you recommend for a very new gluten-free shopper?


This is a really good question. I really do recommend trying to eat without any wheat substitutes at first. That will keep the cost way down. For baking, I like Gluten Free Mama's Almond Blend All Purpose GF Flour. It can be purchased on Amazon (there is a link to it in this post: I just plain don't eat much bread anymore, but I buy Udi's brand when I do. Glutino bagels are really good, and they often have really good coupons. I bet if you were to email the company they'd send you some. Some other products we buy semi-often are Annie's brand GF Macaroni and Cheese, Bob's Red Mill oats and various rice/all purpose/potato/bean flours, Ronzoni Gluten-free pasta, and Trader Joe's GF brownie mix (when we can get someone who is traveling near a TJ's to buy it for us!). Otherwise we tend to eat more rice and potatoes as our carbohydrates for meals.

Megan Kubasch

Thanks for your help 🙂 I appreciate it.

Raquel Rocky Spinelli

I just recently went g/f myself and over the last couple of months I've hit all the local groceries to see what availability I had and compare costs as well. Then I happened to stop at a local 'Odd Lot' type store I rarely go into, just to pick something up and I was greeted at the door with a display of boxed g/f cookies for $1 a box and I decided to explore. I nailed quite the haul – G/F Corn Chex, Red Mill products and G/F pasta packages for a fraction of what the same products/brands cost in the groceries! I think I spent $21 and brought home 3 full bags of goodies. So shop around!


Great tip, thanks! I live in an area that is too small to have these types of stores, but I am going to feature your comment so that other readers will see your advice. I have had good luck with Amazon subscribe and save to find cheaper options, but not nearly THAT cheap!

Raquel Rocky Spinelli

Thanks, please feel free! If I didn't have to work today I'd go back and clear those shelves for them – g/f pasta packages for 99 cents each were a steal.


Ah Ha!!! I 'm looking for books for my granddaughter I wrote all these down and some from the comments! She loves to read as I do and since she will be here for 3 months I need books….any other suggestions would be well welcomed. She really enjoys series the most.


She might like The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, My girls just finished that one and absolutely loved it. There's a series by Michael Scott that starts with The Alchemyst that my kids also enjoyed. Have fun with your granddaughter!


Book bins???


Every summer I give each of my kids a bin of books for them to read over the summer. They still go to the library and choose a lot of their own reading material, but I like to give them a pile of books that are appropriate for their reading levels that they might not have chosen for themselves. They don't always read every one, but they read most of them. I present them with the bin on the first day of summer and they usually spend the rest of the weekend reading insatiably. 🙂 Here's a post that talks about that a little more:


Cool beaners! Thanks!!! 🙂


I love these. I 100% agree with the ones we have read and look forward to taking a look at the ones we haven't yet. Thanks for sharing your insight.