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The Diviners by Libba Bray
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The Diviners (2012)

by Libba Bray

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2,0911634,666 (3.94)61
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Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
Imagine the show "Heroes". Now imagine that the story takes place in the 1920s, without all that pesky time-travel stuff to confuse things beyond reason, and mixed with some of the belief-made-reality horror which made Stephen King's "It" so enjoyable, and you have "The Diviners". While the "roaring 20s" isn't a setting that I'm at all fond of, and this book has a TON of period lingo and vivid (and long-winded) descriptions about things that I'm not at all interested in, I still found myself enjoying the intricately woven story and the myriad unique characters who's perspectives were used to tell it.

The main protagonist, Evie, isn't a fainthearted little girl- she's a seventeen year old "flapper", already halfway to alcoholism and driving everyone insane with her incessant need to do whatever it will take to get everyone's attention (usually in dramatic style, and regardless of who is harmed in the process). There's a moment in the book where she repeats the age-old adage "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission", but where she states that she has no intention of doing either one. That's really her character in a nutshell, and while she's not a bad person, and she does occasionally do the "right thing" and try to help people, her mainly self-centered attention-seeking nature is actually a breath of fresh air for a female protagonist. She's not so bad that she's actually annoying, and she's interesting since you never quite know what she's going to do next.

It isn't just Evie, all of the characters have the types of personalities and backgrounds that are wholly unique, and completely unforgettable. Bray really did a great job of making realistic characters that aren't wholly one thing or another, but complicated creatures with many motivations all pulling them in different directions at once. In a place like New York, that kind of chaos feels appropriate.

Things that I didn't like though. I HATE the 20s. The time period had a flamboyance to it that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The way that people talked, dressed, danced... It's entirely subjective, and it feels a little unfair to have to rate it lower because of the setting choice, but as it impacted my overall enjoyment I just don't feel that I have any choice in the matter. If Bray had chosen to create this story in modern-day NYC, I think I'd have enjoyed it a lot more, even if it lost some of the uniqueness that the setting lent to the storytelling process.

Slightly spoiler-ish stuff ahead (by exclusion, not explicit):

I also didn't like antagonist for the first book. I think, out of all of the characters, he was the most shallow. I get that there was a desire to lend a certain level of mystery to him (you fear what you don't understand, and all that), but unlike Stephen King's "It", he wasn't some amalgamation of the collective fears of a population, he wasn't an alien, he wasn't a fallen angel, or something else that's just completely impossible to truly comprehend: he was a human being, first and foremost. All we ever get is a single-minded drive to complete a sequence of events that he was raised for. That isn't a three-dimensional character, it isn't someone that we can relate to, and it isn't realistic.


Finally, there's the main character's uncle, Will. I think that, like Johnny, Will isn't as deep a character as he could be. I have a feeling that Bray has saved most of his character's depth for the second book, but as that book isn't out yet, I can't really take it into account. He's flat as a board. There's exactly one emotional moment involving his character in the entire book, and it passes in five seconds. His dialogue consists entirely of floods of factual information and three-word responses to Evie's complaints. I'm honestly not sure I'd be capable of creating a character as boring as he was. As most of the characters are quite interesting and appropriately complicated, and since Will is very likely to get a lot more depth added to him in the second book, it isn't a huge deal though.

I think that this was definitely a good book, and anyone who's interested in youthful urban fantasy will likely enjoy it- if you're just a fan of traditional fantasy though, it's a tough call. The kind of magic that this book portrays isn't really the kind that has any sort of solid internal logic or boundaries (it's more of the faith-based kind), nor is it very flashy (unlike everything else in the time period). If you like character-driven books though (there are seriously like 12 protagonists, six of which are perspective-characters), and especially if you're fond of historical settings, then you can probably ignore the fantasy-aspects almost entirely and find a lot to enjoy here. ( )
  LysanderMSND | Jan 19, 2019 |
BOY this was so delightful; I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself in to, but this was just delightful. Really diverse, and the dialogue was just FUNNY and all of the characters had their own rich inner world. The plot itself also DEEPLY sucked me in and I knew I had to finish it as fast as I could to get to the end. It's so well-paced, and I can only strongly recommend this. So, so much fun to read. ( )
  aijmiller | Dec 27, 2018 |
I love this world and these characters with all of my heart. I can't wait to continue the series! ( )
  Mandasony | Nov 6, 2018 |
This book was more than I thought it would be. Grim, gritty, with all the flair of the roaring 20s that you could ever ask for. Pop culture references with actual news stories from the day mix with the occult and paranormal in the best possible way. References to all the needed people from the era, including Madame Blavatsky, I was transported to the world of speakeasies and flappers and caught up in the whirlwind of the plot at hand. I thought it was wonderful, and can't wait to read more. ( )
  therapite | Oct 12, 2018 |
It was very, very good. Still digesting. Perhaps five stars? ( )
  whatsmacksaid | Sep 21, 2018 |
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Epigraph
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? - "The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats
Dedication
For my mom, Nancy Bray, who taught me to love reading by example
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In a town house at a fashionable address on Manhattan's Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Seventeen-year-old Evie O'Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation.… (more)

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