Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners, Book 1

Tags: young adult, historical, paranormal, 1920s


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.


All hail Her Royal YA Highness Libba Bray, who can write about anything she wants in any genre or mix of genres and have it be a critical and commercial success. In her new series, which begins with THE DIVINERS, Bray returns to the stomping grounds that had first gotten her fans: a solid ensemble cast of characters with a dollop of very atmospheric paranormal elements.

Evie is a mouthy, flighty, manipulative, and sometimes silly ball of energy. She is, in short, whom part of you always wishes you could be like, and also everything you would never want to have to deal with in another person. Evie may drive you crazy with her impulsiveness and selfishness at times, but it is those characteristics of hers that allow her to be such a one-of-a-kind protagonist. Her lines and actions literally dominate the pages. If ever there was a character who was bigger than the words describing her, it would be Evie. And I’m sure she would be happy to hear that about herself.

Evie, however, is not the only star of this book. Her new friends are strong characters in their own right. In THE DIVINERS, Evie’s friends and acquaintances don’t seem to be in the book for the sole purpose of convenient info-dumping or plot-hopping: it’s not difficult to see them as protagonists of their own stories—Theta, the glamorous Ziegfeld girl with the troubled past; Memphis, the golden boy from Harlem; Mabel, who is just coming out of the shadow of her idealistic, revolutionist parents; Jericho, strong and silent with a secret that could blow apart everyone’s conception of humanity; and Sam, the pickpocket whose suave exterior hides a grimly driven purpose. Along those lines, the dash of romance in this book will surprise and, I hope, delight you. Bray does not go the expected route, and neither does the romance impose upon the main plot in any way. Dare I say that this is one YA romantic setup that I actually can’t wait to see play out in the sequel?

Speaking of “main plot,” though…Well, sometimes it’s hard to tell what that is. The synopsis sells the premise of a supernatural serial killer, but that’s just the surface—fitting, for a 600-page book. The languid, almost irresponsibly lazy pace of the first half of the book nearly killed it for me. It’s necessary setup for future books in the series, and I appreciate that because of this thorough setup the future books will not beat a finished plot to death, but boy did it divide this book for me.

Overall, an extremely enjoyable novel, particularly for Libba Bray fans but also for those new to her books.

Similar Authors
Sarah Rees Brennan
Maureen Johnson
E. Lockhart

Cover discussion: It's unique! But, um, I feel like it didn't take the opportunity to make the most out of the characters' quirkiness and Bray's rich depictions of the times.

Little, Brown / Sept. 18, 2012 / Hardcover / 592pp. / $19.99

e-galley received from publisher and NetGalley.


  1. Ack, I loved Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, so I've been meaning to read this one since she's back to paranormal historicals. It's just so long! I'll get around to it though, faster now too since I keep hearing good things. :)

  2. I totally felt the same way! It had SO much potential and was in general beautifully written. I just wanted a little more from it.

    1. Hopefully that little something more will appear in the sequels? :)

  3. Oh boy! This book sounds so good and it's been on my to-read list for long. I can't wait to lay my hands on her and enjoy the story. Great review :)

  4. "languid, almost irresponsibly lazy pace of the first half..." YES!! I've had such a hard time getting through this first bit and still haven't. I keep putting the book down, despite all the rave reviews and it being written by, yanno, Libba Bray. *sigh* I'm going in...again.

    1. Oh, I wish you the best of luck! Not because readers of this book need the luck, but because if you keep putting the book down, it might just not be the one for you.

      Of course, if I enjoyed the rest of the book, then I will totally excuse any irresponsibly lazy paces in the first half of books. That just happened with A Corner of White, which I just finished and swooned over.

  5. The more reviews of yours I read, the more I'm convinced we have the same reading tastes. I loved this book too; I think I might listen to it on audio at some point, since it is supposedly very well done. I also can't wait for the next book--looks like we're going into voodoo territory (this has been a weird pattern in my reading lately). Thanks for the review!

  6. Evie definitely is a one-of-a-kind protagonist. Even with her less-than-appealing traits, I couldn't help but adore her by the end of the book. I've probably forgotten far too much about the plot twists though (I know a lot of new things were introduced towards the end), but I still can't wait to read the next book. Great review, Steph!

  7. This is the oddest book. And I say that in a good way. It's a historical fiction / paranormal / sci fi / ghost story / horror. I agree that the side characters are fab. Especially Jericho and Sam.

  8. I am honestly not sure what I think about ensemble casts. I already have difficulties with dual point of view, and adding even more narratives into the works isn't going to immediately excite me. I read Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty series back when they released and liked them well enough, even if I haven't read anything of hers since then, so I do want to give The Diviners a shot. Like you said, it seems like a mix of genres and that intrigues me. And I'm glad to hear you had a positive experience reading this one!

  9. I loved this book and thought the writing was amazingly accomplished. The story held together beautifully and at times was incredibly creepy! I can also highly recommend the audiobook - the narrator is amazing!

  10. I'm very excited to read this book! It certainly sounds like something I'm bound to enjoy, especially because the cast of characters sounds pretty memorable. I love that it's set in New York and that it's set in the 20s! I think that's pretty cool already, and I can't wait to see what Libba does with this for myself.


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