Review: The Diviners

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The DivinersThe Diviners by Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners #1
on September 18, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Gothic, Historical, Horror, Paranormal
Pages: 578
Format: ARC
Source: BEA

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-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

First Sentence: “In the town house at a fashionable address on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.”

Woohoo, I finally finished The Diviners. This thrills me both because it’s insanely original and good, and because it’s so incredibly long and took me forever. Partially, this was because it was my secondary book, but still…oof. Libba Bray has firmly cemented herself in my mind as an Awesome Author, both for her hilarious personality and her talented writing. Though I didn’t like A Great and Terrible Beauty when I first read it ages ago, I loved Beauty Queens and now this one. Libba Bray is one of those authors with the remarkable ability to do something entirely new and astounding every time.

Though The Diviners was pretty slow-going for me, I really did pos-i-tute-ly love it. The storytelling style Bray uses appealed to me entirely. She tells the story in third person, but with a sort of magical realism flair to it, sometimes following a character and sometimes trailing the wind. This fit the story like a glove, and really set up the precise tone needed to pull this tale off.

On the downside, I wasn’t entirely sold on Bray’s use of multiple perspectives. I love them usually, whether third or first person, but it felt forced here. Basically, most of the book was Evie, with a smattering of chapters from Memphis’ perspective, and then random bits of chapters following other characters/things. For the most part, the narration that didn’t follow Evie found my mind wandering off course just a bit. I just feel like Memphis didn’t do enough to justify his having such a large chunk of narrative relative to his importance.

The paranormal plot line, though clearly not yet fully-fledged, still opening up like a bud to become a bloom, delighted me too. Diviners have abilities, sort of like X-Men, which you know is totally one of my favorite things. Evie can see a bit of the past when touching objects. Memphis can heal. The powers are different for each individual and all fascinating. As I said, this was not as big a part of the book as you might expect yet, but will clearly be more central to the next installment.

Another aspect that Libba Bray gets just right is the creep factor. If you’re someone who’s scared by books, she will no doubt have you cowering into your blankets. Thankfully, I’m not bothered by horror in books (though I can’t stomach it in the slightest in films), so it didn’t scare me. I could still admire, however, her ability to create suspense and an eerie scene. I suspect that the story is told the way that it is precisely so we can pop over to the victims’ points of view.

On top of that, I loved Evie. She starts out as this shallow, selfish girl, who I definitely still loved, but grows into this even more loveable girl throughout. I say that, but her core doesn’t really change at all. She lets more of her good qualities shine through, but she’s not magically a good girl or something; she still loves to party, to drink, to manipulate people and to be the center of attention. Evie is straight up hilarious, and I like that, much as she’s a party girl, she really doesn’t seem all that bothered about boys. Romance doesn’t seem to matter to her all that much, except in the matchmaking sense, determined to help her straight-laced friend Mabel land her crush.

I never quite felt the same liking for any of the other characters that I did for Evie. Jericho and Will I like, but I don’t know enough about them to be super invested. Memphis really does seem like a marvelously nice guy, but he just bored me, and I’m really creeped out by pretty much every other character in his story line. My least favorite character, though, by far was Sam. Intellectually, I know he’s sort of the more messed-up, male version of Evie, but, for whatever reason, I just cannot stand him. Maybe I just can’t get over the fact that he stole from Evie when he first met or how freaking cocky he is.

While The Diviners was not a perfect read, I still declare myself awash in admiration for Libba Bray’s talent. This book is so unlike anything else I’ve read and the writing is superb. For those with a bit of patience, you will not want to miss this one, as it is remarkable.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I thought you went to the library,’ Uncle Will said.
Evie cut her eyes at Will, who didn’t look up from his book. ‘Why do you think I’m so exhausted? If you’d like to know anything at all about this city in 1876, please raise your hand. No show of hands? Pos-i-tute-ly shocking.’ Evie bunched a pillow into a corner of the settee and rested her face against it. ‘There is a hideous invention called the Dewey Decimal System. And you have to look up your topic in books and newspapers. Pages upon pages upon pages . . . .
Uncle Will frowned. ‘Didn’t they teach you how to go about research in that school of yours?”
‘No, but I can recite ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ while making martinis.’
‘I weep for the future.’
‘There’s where the martinis come in.'”

12 responses to “Review: The Diviners”

  1. OMG yes!! I was bored to tears by Memphis’ chapters and is the main reason why I knocked off a star. I think that his impact will probably make more sense in the next book, but my mind started to wander during those scenes. And no OTHER review that I read remarked upon this and I thought it was just me, so thank you for that!

    Great review and I am glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Audra says:

    Wonderful review — I’m getting this but feel well armed to not writhe with rage when I get to the slow bits/parts I don’t like. I actually rather liked AGATB (ish, had some problems) so I’m interested in this one. That excerpt you shared had me howling.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I think you should definitely check this out. It’s insanely good, minus the slow parts. 🙂

      The whole thing is like that excerpt. Evie’s hilarious!

  3. A magical realism, creep factor and Evie sounds interesting. What an awesome review. This is on my wishlist and despite the slow bits and forced parts I am looking forward to trying it!

  4. This was a slow read for me too, because of the length, but I loved it all the same.

    I feel very similar about Evie, I loved her despite her faults. I also really liked Theta. And Memphis. And all of the characters.

    • Christina says:

      Yes, Evie was marvelous. Even when I was irritated by her at the beginning, I still thought she was hilarious and interesting.

      Glad you liked all of the characters. I wasn’t a huge fan of a few, but the book was still enchanting.

  5. KM says:

    I still haven’t made it to this one yet! I had to leave my copy at home when I left, so I haven’t gotten to read it. But I’m super excited to get my hands on it!!

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