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The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Libba Bray

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1,7321474,083 (3.94)57
Title:The Diviners
Authors:Libba Bray
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 592 pages
Collections:Favorites, Wishlist
Tags:YA, historical, mystery, fantasy, supernatural, romance

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The Diviners by Libba Bray (2012)


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Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
Oh, wow.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up this book. I have been a fan of Libba since the Gemma Doyle series first came out, but, let's be honest. Gemma's books, while captivating, were also flawed. And Libba's realistic fiction books, while humorous, just didn't captivate me from the outset (started and couldn't finish either one). So when I saw that she was launching a new fantasy series set in the Roarin' Twenties, my interest was peaked, but I was also slightly skeptical.

And yet, I am so glad that I DID!

First, the strengths. As was the case with the Gemma Doyle stories, Libba is an incredibly thorough researcher, and it shows. The way the 1920s was brought to life through every tiny detail, from the most obscure slang to radio shows and song lyrics to the differences in haircuts for women, is remarkable. Second, her writing has really grown and developed in many ways! Her characters are beautifully well-rounded, without clumsy turns-of-phrases or overbearing traits (which was something that I have to remember to forgive with the first two Gemma books). Frankly, I loved loved loved Evie. She had this lovely dichotomy of being insecure and unapologetic at the same time. I loved the small moments where she showed her kindness. I love how fiercely she works to earn people's trust, even as she laughs it all off. I loved Jericho (unsurprisingly, perhaps). Again, I love that his feelings were shown through the tiniest of details (turning red at certain moments, etc). I loved that his aloofness changed so, so subtly and smoothly from being just plain awkward to kind of mysterious as our perception of him changed with Evie (I'm actually not quite sure how that happened, to be honest). I ADORED Memphis. And I adored how Libba let the dialogue and interactions with other characters in his world (like with Octavia and Isaiah) just create his character organically. The only one that I felt a little luke-warm about was Theta. But then, it's hard to develop so many main characters (and why I feel authors really shouldn't have more than four).

Another area of strength in this novel is how the author's transitions to new scenes or topics has gotten much tighter and smoother. And ultimately because of this growth, her talent as a wonderfully descriptive, lyrical story-teller is really getting a chance to shine through! Which brings me to another point: How much more dark and compelling this series is turning out to be. I have never, until this book, been afraid of getting nightmares from a novel. The way Libba puts you inside victims heads (again, through the tiniest of details and descriptions) is fascinating and horrifying. Especially during the scene of the first murder, which was just so brutally vivid! I had to work really, really hard to make myself feel like a human being again after that scene. Through scenes like that one, though, she sets a tone of both urgency and compassion for the reader, and that, with the characters, is really what drives the reader to keep reading!

Still, I could only in good consciousness give this book four stars. For one thing, there were still some parts of the writing that felt stilted - the times one of the so-called Brethren talked or were quoted, for example. I mean, in the midst of all the smoothly flowing 20s slang, it was really jarring to suddenly have Evie say, "I cast you in the fire!" or something to that effect. And maybe Libba was going for that jarring effect, but really it felt a little awkward.

And, of course, I couldn't help seeing all the similarities to the Gemma Doyle series. "Oh, here's a secret cult that was operational in recent history! OH and look you might be a part of a secret society too! Oh, here's a character that's kind of mousy and annoying but tries to be a good friend. And here's the strong, silent cute guy! And hey, about halfway let's throw in a diary that will give us a nice chunk of background info about all of these things."

Still. Somehow, Libba Bray's lyricalness (...I hope that's a word), pacing, and characterization has a way of making you forgive her for all of these flaws. This is a lovely, absorbing, thrilling book. Read it! ( )
  srsharms | Jul 20, 2017 |
Libba Bray's stunning kickoff to her new series is a lively and rollicking 1920's supernatural mystery with more themes and interesting characters than you can shake a stick at. From a grisly serial killer to speakeasies and prohibition to religious cults to mystical powers to a potentially impending supernatural apocalypse, The Diviners leaves no stone unturned. The setting offers a divine look at the seedy underbelly of 1920's New York, but competes with itself at times as the reader speeds through characters and enough plot twists to make your head spin. ( )
  GennaC | May 9, 2017 |
I was a bit torn between one and two stars for this novel but I decided to be generous. Just...

I was curious about this novel due to the time period in which it's set as the Victorian era is popular with paranormal writers, but I'd never seen anything set in Manhattan during the Roaring Twenties. And, to be fair, Bray did a great job of recreating the feel of this time, from prohibition to ingrained racism towards anyone who wasn't white American. The novel is bright and stylish, successfully illustrating how America treated characters of all classes during this period.

However, the novel was made hard to read by it's horribly slow pacing. Seriously, at times it was like wading through treacle. At 578 pages, this book is horribly long for a young adult novel and I think that at least 150 of those pages could have been trimmed in order to better streamline the tale. The novel focuses on a cast that is far too large, taking too much time in fleshing out insignificant side characters and following Evie on nighttime jaunts to speakeasies. The first corpse isn't discovered until 100 pages into the story and after this, the story doesn't truly focus on the murder investigation until its final act.

The supernatural elements of the plot were very varied. Naughty John is very frightening, with a sinister plan and creepy method of carrying it out. However, I wish there had been more focus on The Diviners. Virtually everyone in this story had some sort of special "gift", however these weren't really developed at all. I wish that more time had been spent fleshing these out and explaining exactly how they worked and what the consequences of abusing them were.

The plot also didn't really feel complete. While the Naughty John story was wrapped up in this book, it left a hell of a lot of loose threads hanging. The novel had several subplots, each following a different Diviner, and only Evie's reached any sort of resolution. The rest...just didn't amount to anything. I spent most of the book waiting for Memphis is particular to join up with Evie's group but it never happened. I assume that the author is saving them for a future book, but including them in this one at all just bogged things down.

In terms of cast, they're also a bit of mixed bag. I can't decide whether or not I actually like Evie. She's headstrong and able to take care of herself, yet she's also incredibly naive and only ever thinks of herself. I also didn't really like all her "flapper speak". This never stops in the novel and really started to grate on my nerve-skis after a while.

In terms of the rest of the huge cast, some made more of an impression than others. I liked Jericho and his growing attraction to Evie seemed very realistic, however I'm concerned about the direction the impending love trapezium between Evie, Mabel, Sam and Jericho will head in the next story. Few of the other characters left as much of an impression. While Memphis and Theta were amusing enough, they didn't leave much of an impression on the story and Henry, despite being the story's only gay character, was entirely pushed to the side after a while.

All in all, I was disappointed. The novel felt too long and unpolished, and had such a large cast that they drew focus away from the story. I might look at the sequel at some point to see if the writing improves, but I'm not in any great hurry to do so. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Jan 23, 2017 |
3,5 stars, but let's round it up to 4. This book is called The Diviners, and although you do know who they are, they don't really do anything and they never get together! They keep being the separated entities they were before the start of the book. I feel like this was just an introductory chapter to the rest of the story - even the murders appear not to be really solved - so everything is just presented to you, they tell you that something is going to happen, someday, probably someday soon, but not now. This makes me very interested in reading the second book, but leaves me feeling a bit cheated with the first one.
However, I did enjoy getting to know all these different characters (even if they never really get together), I loved to know a little more about New York City all those years ago and I'm really looking forward to read the second book, so I'm very glad I picked up this book. ( )
  Danyspike | Jan 13, 2017 |
Evie is sent to stay with her Uncle Will in New York City as a punishment for outrageous behavior in her boring small town. Nothing could be further from punishing for attention-seeking Evie. Though Uncle Will seems rather boring, he curates a museum of creepy artifacts which gets him involved in the investigation of a murderer who leaves behind pseudo-religious or occult markings. Young Evie certainly didn't intend to reveal her ability to divine a person's history by holding an object of theirs but her unwelcome, unusual skill may prove vital in catching a killer. What Evie doesn't know is that she's posi-tute-ly surrounded by others with special powers -- and they all have a sense of impending doom. But can they figure out what's behind the gruesome murders and prevent whatever is coming? Bray's depiction of the period through the eyes of a "bright young thing" is spot on and adds levity to the dark, ominous plot. The book is overly long but solidly entertaining. The audiobook narration was weak, especially in terms of male voices, and several elements of the plot are left hanging for a sequel. Suitable for older teens but some parents will balk at the abuse of alcohol and the anti-religious theme that runs through the story. ( )
  bookappeal | Jan 6, 2017 |
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And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? - "The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats
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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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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