Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

This book was published in 2012 but it kind of feels like one of those "classic" books, already. Why, though? I think that it's because it has been on so many different must read lists and it gives you them sense that everyone has read this already. Maybe it's just my own fear of missing out... but, anywhooo...  
The Goodreads 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-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.

My Thoughts:

I guess my first thought was about how fricking big this beast of a book is. But I got over that because of how annoying the main character is. Evie is a flapper in the 20's. She's a member of the primary counter- culture for young women in her time and she faces it head on, drinking, smoking, showing a little too much leg, and basically sassing every adult who's responsible for her.

I'm all for that but she's inconsiderate of her friends and puts people in danger too often. I'm too old to think that's cool, I think. Her friends know she's selfish but also know that she's got a heart of gold, or she thinks she does, anyway. We know pretty quickly that Evie is able to read people's secrets from their regular every day objects. She's too reckless to learn from her mistakes and keep her trap shut about this superpower, like other people are able to.

Many of the other characters have some kind of supernatural ability and almost all of them have gotten into some kind of trouble as a result. This is a world where magic exists, but people really don't talk about it. Something big is brewing that is pulling "magical" people to New York. Or maybe it's not. Maybe it's a coincidence that all these people end up in the same city and begin to cross paths. This book is obviously the setup for a much bigger story. There are more characters than you need, more repetition than is necessary, and really about 300 pages too many for this not to be leading somewhere. There's really A LOT going on in this book: religious cults, murder, cyborgs, occultism, grave robbery, and speakeasies. There's a mystical murder mystery happening while we are introduced to and have flashbacks for almost completely unrelated characters. For example, if you take out all scenes with Theta and Memphis (and fam) who seem like main characters, you wouldn't miss any of the main story line. While my favorite characters in the story so far really have very little to do with this book, I'm looking forward to spending more time with them in the novels to come. The Diviners must be getting together for something, right? Maybe the murder mystery thing was just the "monster of the episode." 

Don't get my wrong. I enjoyed this book. It's nestled firmly between a 3.75 and a 4.25 stars out of the usual 5 point scale. The characters are diverse with interesting back-stories. I like the tone of the book and the fun '20s lingo. The pace was good, even when tangential. The emotional experience of the book is spot on and you definitely get the heebie jeebies at all the right spots. There are two potential love triangles that have utter disdain and complete anticipation for, not to mention the inter-racial relationship that is sure to cause more tension. The whole political (with both racial and sexual bits), religious, sexual, and roaring 1920's backdrop is actually a strong point of the book. Importantly, these elements are part of the story and don't feel contrived as book-selling fodder. 

The sequel, Lair of Dreams, dropped in August 2015 so I'll probably read that soon. Goodreads ratings suggest the story continues strong. But I've kind of had enough of Evie for right this minute.
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