Monday, 24 September 2012

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners (Diviners #1) by Libba Bray
Publisher: Atom
Released: September 18th 2012
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

It's 1920s New York City. It's flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It's after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things it's the opportunity to party like never before.

For Evie O'Neill, it's escape. She's never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scandal, she's shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she's always wanted: the chance to show how thoroughly modern and incredibly daring she can be.

But New York City isn't about just jazz babies and follies girls. It has a darker side. Young women are being murdered across the city. And these aren't crimes of passion. They're gruesome. They're planned. They bear a strange resemblance to an obscure group of tarot cards. And the New York City police can't solve them alone.

Evie wasn't just escaping the stifling life of Ohio, she was running from the knowledge of what she could do. She has a secret. A mysterious power that could help catch the killer - if he doesn't catch her first.
(from Goodreads)

The Diviners is a big book. At just under six hundred pages, you can expect there to be a lot going on. While I enjoyed the story overall and think the supernatural elements were very, very intriguing, I personally felt there was just too much happening. Too many characters, too many separate stories, too many unexplained events – I felt like I was reading several, loosely connected books at once. It felt very much like the introduction to a series and less a book in its own right. Like we were being introduced to these (many) characters, but just so we could know who they were later on. However, that being said, I was interested to see how all the different things going on would eventually connect up, so I am looking forward to the book two and seeing what happens next.

Evie was the main character and the one the story was mostly centred around. She loved the flapper lifestyle and drinking and partying were her favourite things to do. To be honest, she was a bit much for me. I felt like all her characteristic were emphasised and exaggerated and she used so much slang when she talked – did people from the 1920s really speak like that? I could understand her desire to have fun and step away from the stiff rules and regulations but I don’t know. She seemed rather selfish and though she had this amazing power, the best use she could find for it (at the beginning) was a party trick for drunk friends at social gatherings. I got that she didn’t want to reveal that she was different because she was scared what would happen, but then she randomly flaunted her abilities to impress some people at a party! It was nice to see a young girl who didn’t like to conform and wanted to be her own person though, and she was fun to read about. I also think that she was a surprisingly caring person as well, and she did seem to value her friends, especially Mabel who she was very grateful to (though she felt guilty that she had feelings for Jericho, who Mabel also liked). As a main character, Evie was an interesting person to follow and get to know. However, I think we’d probably clash in real life :P. Her ability to read objects was very fascinating though. She could see images from a person’s life just by holding something that belonged to them, and thus could divulge their deepest and darkest secrets. The best part for me was when Evie held Naughty John’s item (Naughty John being the villain with his own creepy song which he sang during a kill that would completely freak me out if I heard aloud) and became deeply immersed the images she saw. She really pushed her power and the outcome was almost frightening. I’d really like to know more about Evie’s ability and the extent of her power.

There were a lot of other characters, too many to describe in depth, so I’ll just mention my general feelings about them. Jericho worked for Evie’s uncle, Will, who she had been sent to stay with. He didn’t speak much, and when he did, he was usually angry about something. His past, however, was something I didn’t expect at all and really surprised me (in a good way). He had suffered a lot and knew how it felt to be different, which I think is one of the reasons he warmed up to Evie. As a love interest for Evie I didn’t really think the two worked well together. I much preferred Sam, who was a thief but who was also very funny and cheeky and loveable in that roguish sort of way. Sam seemed determined to win Evie over after leaving a bad impression (after *cough* robbing her *cough*) but his efforts seemed in vain as Evie really didn’t seem to like him much. However, I thought the way they insulted each other and exchanged quips was actually very funny and entertained me more than Jericho’s silent brooding. Sam was also somewhat of mystery, and seemed to be after revenge for something that remained mostly unexplained. Memphis and Theta were two other interesting characters; Memphis because of the way his ability seemed to have disappeared and because of his brother who also had a power, and Theta because her ability was dangerous. Theta had one of the saddest backstories, but she picked herself up and tried to get on with life, which I respected.

The romance between Theta and Memphis was sweet, though plot-wise, their story for me felt a bit disconnected as it never joined up with the main storyline and was left hanging. They both had abilities like Evie, and as a group they were all know as “Diviners”, but the Diviners never really banded together or even found out about each other, which was just a bit odd. We were introduced to all these Diviners, but they all had separate stories which never really connected. I really wanted Evie to find out that there were more Diviners out there, but nearly six hundred pages and nope. She had no clue. Then we were randomly introduced to yet another character at the end that remained nameless and I just started to feel like there were all these characters floating around with no purpose in the story yet, despite having just read a rather sizeable book. And because we had chapters from so many different perspectives, switching so often between the Diviners and Naughty John and Naughty John’s victims, it was a bit confusing and some parts really seemed to drag on. The plus side was that I was kept guessing throughout and never really knew what would happen next or what terrifying act Naught John would perform, and there was an ominous vibe maintained throughout the book – hell, I was creeped out by the first chapter! I would have liked more explanation about a lot of things (including exactly where Naughty John came from and how he was able to do the things he did), but I suppose I shall have to wait for the next book.

Overall, The Diviners was an enjoyable, eerie mystery with a great aspect but I felt it was maybe too long and was very slow in paces, and didn’t flow very well for me due to the multiple storylines. I would recommend it to people who like creepy supernatural mysteries and I will be reading the next book – but be prepared before reading this book, it is as long as it looks.


  1. I don't mind a 600 page book (gotta love the long reads) but I'm not really a fan of several perspectives in one book . . . but since I LOVE the 1920's era and I have some faith in the author, hopefully (hopefully!) I'll love this book in the end. I should be getting my copy of it very soon so I can't wait to read it!

    Anyway great review, Liz! Despite your problems I'm glad you still managed to enjoy it!

  2. Hmmm, sounds like it was way too long and all over the place. I've enjoyed some of Bray's other books but I don't know if I'll read this one.

  3. I really enjoyed this one, but I do admit I felt the same about all the loose ends and stragling characters. I'm sure they'll come into play more in book two, but yeah...I wanted them to be a bit more of a part of the resolution of this installment, too. The 20s era was definitely brought to vivid life, though! The speech did seem exaggerated at times, but I actually think that's how it was back then---at least if most movies from the 20s are a half-way accurate portrayal!

  4. I haven't been able to read this one yet. It's so big and heavy that I can't carry it around in my bag! I think this is the first less than four start review I've seen for this one. It does sound like there's an awful lot going on in the book, but I'm still looking forward to reading it as it sounds like it could be a good start to a great new series! :)

  5. I'll be honest, big books have begun to intimidate me more and more as time goes on. I know they'll take me forever to read them and I want to make sure my time is well-spent.

    I read Bray's debut novel and am currently vacillating on whether or not to finish that series.

  6. Yayy! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I love Libba Bray and can't wait till I finish all my ARCs and finally get to read this one. It sounds fantastic and your review just makes me want to pick it up sooner. Wonderful, wonderful review! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

  7. Oh dear now I'm afraid to read this one. I just got it from the library and it is a huge book! I mean this thing is practically harry potter big!

    It is too bad that the story was all over the place and never really came together! I do love the idea of this being set in the 1920s though.

    Thanks for the great review, too bad this didn't come together

  8. NOT SO FAST, LIZ. Clearly Evie and Sam are meant to be together... If we have learned nothing else from the Alanna series, let it be that the thief always gets the girl. (I feel so nostalgic about those books lately, it's not even funny. Clearly a re-read is in order!)

    ANYWAY. Brillsome review as always, Liz! :) I think you're even smarter now that you're in university, you know ;) It is kind of weird about the separate storylines... I haven't read many books where they don't eventually connect. I'm not sure how I'd personally feel about it when reading!

    Aaaand... I have 31 days left to read the e-galley of this :P Better get moving! Great review, Liz! <3

  9. Ooooh, Liz, I'm reading this RIGHT NOW and and and... I'm really liking it, but I think it's because so... different.

    But Sam vs. Jericho... RIGHT?! Sam and Evie just... NEED to happen. I don't get the Jericho thing :S

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