Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Release Date: September 18, 2012
(Thanks to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Little Brown

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

Ten likes/dislikes:

1. (+) Evie, the protagonist - Not going to lie, Evie can be hard to like sometimes. She's that headstrong, rebellious teen who you know has a good heart but who will let her own impulses (to party, to be unforgettable, etc.) get the better of her, even lead her into traps. Sometimes that means acting like the chick in the horror movie who you want to shake some sense into... She also has a secret power that's brought her difficulty in the past, and watching her struggle with it, and the way people judge her--they say that she's "too much" for Ohio and causes too many scandals--that's what I thought brought the most edges to her character and made me like her. She handles herself well when it matters the most.
2. (+) World Building - So when I started reading this, I thought there would only be paranormal elements but there's some steampunk in there too, and I love that Uncle Will's museum is also known as the museum of creepy crawlies, 'cause that's a great way to describe the underlying danger. You find out about all the powers each Diviner holds, whether they're a main character or not. There are mysterious government projects and hints that there's a reckoning to come. There's an end of times cult with its own version of the Bible. Libba Bray even develops different parts of NYC - where Memphis lives versus where Evie lives in privilege... though one thing that did bother me were the names. Memphis, Jericho, Theta?  Those are the names of the other main characters, and it kind of sounds like they were just pulled out of a random book because they sounded cool.
3. (+) Romance - One of the things I loved about Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy was that though the romance was there, it was more of a side plot, and Bray didn't let it overwhelm the rest of the story. The same goes with The Diviners. Evie's got a little something going on, maybe even a love triangle in the making, and Memphis and Theta are beginning to get to know each other. All of it's sweet and a way of letting the characters get their guard down before shit really happens (or that's my impression, at least -- enjoy it while it lasts).
4. (+) Villain - You know how they say the scariest villain is one who believes the most in his causes?  Yeah, so you won't be sympathizing with Naughty John, since he doesn't to be entirely human and he's acting upon the beliefs of a cult re: the rising of the Beast and the end of times, but who cares? He's creepy as hell, and the scenes interspersed between the other characters' adventures remind you of the danger he poses.
5. (+) Character Cast - One of the best parts of this novel is that it has multiple POVs so you get to learn more about the other characters who take more of a main role in the next novels. You're not just stuck in Evie's head - you get to hear from Jericho, who's tortured by his past and what other people did to him, what that means for his future; Memphis, who too has a gift but whose gift seems to be leading to him to tragedy with his family; Theta, who's on the run from her past and has only found shelter in "her brother" Henry; and several other characters like Sister Walker and Ruta whose perspectives add mystery and suspense to the series plot and plot of this book.
6. (+) 20s Vibe - I don't know much about the 20s beyond flapper dresses, but Bray starts off the story in a way reminiscent of Fitzgerald, with the distanced tone and characters calling each other 'old sport,' and there's this frenzied energy of who's going to party the hardest, of the city that never sleeps etc. etc. imbibing everyone. There are plenty of Prohibition jokes, and I didn't know what speakeasies or who the Ziegfield girls were before this but I know now. I never once felt like I wasn't in the 20s with the characters.
7. (--) Fluff - There was a part of me that wondered if everything that was there was necessary. I can tell that some of the fluff is because Libba Bray is foreshadowing and setting up events for the rest of the series, but the story takes so long to get started, and not all of the plot and character lines have converged yet so that makes reading them now a bit frustrating. Sometimes I had to push myself to keep at this monstrous, 600+ page novel.
8. (+) The Writing - It's Libba Bray. If you've read any of her other work, you'll probably like the writing style here too. If you haven't anything of hers, trust that you're in accomplished hands.
9. (+/-) Pacing - The other negative also has to do with the length of this novel -  I mentioned before that it took the story a while to start, right?  And the fact that there are multiple POVs sometimes means that the flow gets interrupted.  Towards the end, the pacing picks up for all the characters, but again 600 page novel where stuff is sometimes happening, but not necessarily to advance the immediate plot. It's hard to maintain the momentum.
10. (+) The Cover - It's obvious that whoever designed the cover actually read the novel. The eye and the symbols around it are seen in a dream and represent the Diviners as a whole.  Plus, there's that hint of the city beyond, and a bit of the darkness too, with that shade blue.

A fun start to a promising series from the talented Libba Bray that's sure to bring her a legion of new fans.


  1. I like your thorough review on this book :D Can't wait to read The Diviners


  2. This one that I definitely need to get when it comes out. Great review.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

  3. First - I love your review! first time I, personally, see a (+)/(-) review like this, and it's really awesome!
    So, about your review, I recently finished reading The Diviners and I agree! I loved Evie, because despite the fact she could be stupid, she was just so human, you know? And I loved her wit and sarcasm :]
    I also felt it was great the romance was set more as a subplot, or rather part of the big plot, than being THE plot, as many recent books have. I can't exactly pinpoint what I loved about it so much, aside for the fact it was so darn refreshing, but I loved it!
    I did feel Theta and Memphis's relationship happened a bit too quickly. They met twice - and they're kissing and in love. That was a bit out of pace with the rest of the book, don't you think?
    As for the multiple POVs, I loved that too. I think it's pretty amazing Bray managed to jump between so many character so flawlessly. As you said, Bray's writing is amazing, and she really does put us IN the 20s rather than just telling us we're there, which was pretty much enchanting to me.

    So, yeah - great review! And sorry for the loooooooong response!

  4. I've been consider reading this book for some time now, but the cover really doesn't catch my attention (I know I'm a horrible person) but after reading your review, I'm kicking myself now. Looks great and I love a book with great world building.


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