TITLE: The Diviners
AUTHOR: Libba Bray
GENRE: YA, Fantasy
FORMAT: Hardcover, 592 Pages
Evie’s little parlor trick has gone just a little too far this time. The strange, inexplicable ability to learn a person’s secrets by “reading” their possessions has never gotten her into this much trouble before. Apparently most people don’t appreciate having the skeletons in their closets unceremoniously dumped out on the street. Evie finds herself exiled to her bachelor uncle’s home in New York, if indeed it can be called exile in the first place. It’s the Roaring 20′s, after all — the streets are teeming with glamorous Ziegfeld girls, crooks, and flappers, and Evie finally feels free. Never mind that Uncle Will is the stodgy owner of an occult museum filled with creepy things. Evie can handle the trade-off. She lives for the bright lights and the perpetual undercurrent of excitement, until that excitement turns deadly. A series of disturbing, ritualistic murders prompts the authorities to call on her uncle’s expertise in the paranormal, and Evie finds herself on the trail of a killer. Can her gift help solve the case?
Weighing in at just under 600 pages, The Diviners will seriously test your endurance as a reader. If you can handle the slow start, Evie’s crackpot schemes (plus annoying signature phrases such as ‘pos-i-tute-ly’), and a string of VERY creepy moments, this book is sure to take you on a wild ride through an authentically recreated 1920′s Manhattan and an occult murder-mystery that will make you want to leave the lights on.
Let’s address Evie first. I thought she had some really funny moments, and I liked that she was far from a reactionary heroine, but I just never really ended up seeing her as much of a heroine in the first place. I found myself loving the supporting characters a lot more than Evie. The character development and nuanced back-stories for the other members of this book’s rather large cast were by far more compelling than Evie herself. I was constantly annoyed by how tactless, frivolous, or just plain ridiculous she was being. She improves towards the end, gaining some maturity and equilibrium, and we do see a promising side to her that finally comes to the surface, but she was never my favorite. It’s hard to get into a book when the main character makes you want to slap her around. I stayed for the others, and just kind of shoved Evie to the background. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a heroine with spunk, but man. She just really gets on your nerves after a while. I guess it takes a certain personality to get along with her? I mean, this girl was still making me mad right down to the last chapters, when she should have been easier to forgive.
And now for the length of this book. Guys, it’s pretty long. It starts off with a deliciously creepy first chapter, though. It definitely snagged my attention from the start. But then Evie came along, which is when my attention began to wander. I just don’t have much patience for her. I cheered when she got to New York and other characters began appearing; I loved how deeply the author delved into their intertwined lives and what brought them to the big city in the first place. Oh, and I’m CRAZY for Memphis and Theta — I love these two SO HARD. I hope we get more of them in the next (gigantic) book. The book really shines in this department, in my opinion. The brilliant supporting cast makes up for Evie being irritating. That being said, you may have a hard time keeping up with all the names and roles being batted around. I don’t mind a big group of characters, but I realize this might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The supernatural aspects of the book are exceedingly well crafted. I’m impressed, honestly. It’s epic, it’s frightening, and it’s handled with a lot of skill. By the end of the book, it becomes evident that this is only the beginning of something greater, something that will take our cast of characters and put them through hell. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that the villain in this book is already larger than life — what more could be waiting in the wings?? It just sends a chill down my spine, seriously. Speaking of the villain, if you’ve read Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City, you’ll recognize a lot of similarities with a real life serial killer… it just makes it that much creepier. I like to be creeped out (as long as the lights are still on… /coward) so I thought the scary bits were just excellent. Hats off to Libba Bray for making it all so very convincing, just the right mix of the factual and the fictional.
The 1920′s setting was evidently researched with incredible depth. It’s another part of the book that was done well. It kind of goes overboard at times with the 20′s era jargon — sometimes I had absolutely no clue what Evie and co were even saying. It gets tiresome over the course of 600 pages, although now I have the strange urge to incorporate, “And how!” into my vocabulary… (that wouldn’t be TOO bizarre, right??)
I’m taking off a star mostly because Evie is just not the best main character ever, and for the length of the story; at times it just drags, with a lot of time spent on bringing the setting to life. This isn’t a big deal, and it’s certainly not as mind-boggling as, say, Stormdancer with its minute descriptions of people’s clothing and etc. However, to balance a plot and a setting of this scope, the action needed to be paced at a faster clip for me. Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed it, especially in the latter half of the book. I will be continuing with the series and keeping my fingers crossed that Evie becomes more tolerable in the second and third installments. If you never got enough of the opulent, glamorous world of The Great Gatsby and if you enjoy a dash of the eerie, then The Diviners will be a worthwhile read for you!