Review: “The Diviners” by Libba Bray

Title: “The Diviners”

Author: Libba Bray

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery, AWESOME

Publication Date: September 18, 2012 (Little, Brown FYR – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: 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.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – deserves all the stars – can’t wait until the movie comes out!

Review: DESERVES ALL THE STARS. Seriously, if I could give it more than five stars, I totally would. This was such a breath of fresh air in the YA paranormal area, guys, I can’t tell you how awesome it felt to read this book. Yes, it is rather long (weighing in at a final 578 pages), but it’s so totally worth it. “The Diviners” isn’t the story of one girl, but it’s the story of a city, and the story of a culture riding high, not knowing what’s coming down the road.

This book is so rich and complex, it’s a bit hard to really talk about it all. I’m happy to say that everyone will find something to love in this book – there’s a murder mystery. There’s romance. There’s really ominous foreshadowing of the Great Depression. There’s a lot of coming-of-age stuff going on. There’s the occult (and a scary as hell Christian cult within the occult stuff, too – very inception-ish). And even though the blurb bills Evie as the main character, she’s only one of several – all going through a journey within New York City in order to not only find a killer, but to discover themselves through a paranormal lens. And it’s one of those joyous books where it’s not just plot-driven, but character driven, too. While Evie does get a lot of the POV chapters, I’d say the spread of POV chapters is shared pretty well throughout all of the main cast pretty evenly.

There is a bit of this book that feels like filler (especially within the first 100-150 pages), but it’s a tiny amount compared to some of the other YA I’ve read recently that’s had filler in it. However. The characters, the worldbuilding, the sheer originality of both, the lack of insta-love and love triangles TOTALLY makes up for that little bit of filler. You will fall in love with these characters to varying degrees – I know I definitely wanted Evie as my bff after the end of the book (oh, that ending! Libba, you’re such a tease!). Where a lot of books and authors would save this first book’s material as finale material, Bray has done the total opposite and that’s really refreshing. Instead, she uses the budding paranormal abilities of those called the Diviners to leave us on a bit of a cliffhanger for the next book in this series, and their origin stories are all interwoven masterfully within this first book.

The world: OH, THIS WORLD. If you love the roaring twenties, you simply must read this book. Bray does an absolutely awesome job reconstructing 1920s New York to the point where it really, really feels real – including the paranormal and cult serial killer bits of it, too. The characters also interweave back into this world so neatly and so well that it all feels natural. If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you’ll know that “characters interweaving back into the world” is one of my areas for awesome/top-shelf worldbuilding, and Bray nailed it.

The characters: I wanted a bit more complexity in Evie, but by the end of the book, I did get that through her personal character arc. Bray did us a solid by giving all of the main cast personal character arcs – even if small. All of them felt VERY real, and not a single one of them felt unrealistic or cheesy at all. But at this point in Bray’s career with the bibliography she’s built for herself, I’d expect nothing less. Especially after “Beauty Queens”.

The antagonist: This one merits a special examination because the murders were so creepy and well done. I absolutely love how thorough his origins/backstory were written, and I love the cult that Bray inserted to help explain just why Naughty John embraced his own evil. He’s absolutely unapologetic in his evil, and that’s what makes him a truly great villain. There’s also the occult part of this world (the cult itself is only a small part of this greater paranormal stage) – complete with Ouija boards and seers and dreamers and the whole shebang. It’s awesome. It really gives you a flavor of post-Revivalist America before/during the revival of neo-paganism, and it was generally a very culturally rich folklore read there.

Final verdict? You simply MUST, MUST, MUST pick up Bray’s latest. It’s on my best of 2012 list for a reason. “The Diviners” is out now by Little, Brown for Young Readers in North America, so don’t wait! Go out and check it out as soon as you can. You simply just can’t miss this book, so worth waiting for, by one of America’s best historical fiction YA authors.


2 thoughts on “Review: “The Diviners” by Libba Bray

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves – Week 20 | birth of a new witch.

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