Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: The Diviners

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: YA, historical fiction, fantasy, thriller

If it's any clue to how addictive this book is, I read this 600 page tome in 3 days (for some perspective, that's about twice as fast as I usually read). This book was intense to say the least!

I have read a couple of Libba Bray books before, and I have usually liked but not loved them. I am always annoyed by the over-the-top-ness of her characters and satire, but I do respect the ideas she has and the way she constructs such bold stories around them. I think bold would be a good way to describe The Diviners as well - it's a mix of historical fiction and fantasy in one of the most unique and interesting combinations I have ever seen. The Roaring Twenties, characterized by opposites (both great success and great poverty, religious fervor and rebellion, prohibition and flapper girls, the list goes on), meets the classic age old good versus mysterious evil lurking in the shadows.

The story centers around Evie O'Neill, a spirited young woman who loves to live in the moment and jump into everything. At a party one night, she decides to show off her "secret power" and ends up getting into enough trouble that her parents send her off to New York to live with her uncle, the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (aka the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies). When gruesome murders start happening around New York, Evie and her Uncle Will are called to the scene to find an explanation. Evie finds herself mixed up in a supernatural mystery that makes her hair stand on end - more reason to jump headfirst into the adventure! As Evie investigates the murders, she learns more about her unique power...and that she isn't alone.

The stories of the other characters with unexpected powers and their struggles to understand who they are added so much to the story. I almost cried for Theta when I finally found out about her past, and my heart melted for Sam when I found about his mother. I was in shock when I found out about Jericho, although he doesn't quite fit in with the rest of them. Memphis was my favorite character in the book, and I thought his gift/burden was the most interesting. He is charming and everyone seems to love him, but no one really knows him, and he is plagued with loneliness. He feels guilty for his mother's death and his brother's visions, but he does the best he can to help the people he cares about. I wish Memphis, Theta, and Sam had had more to do with the final conflict - it seemed as though this book just introduced them and their stories, but they didn't actually have to do with the main plotline. 

Speaking of the main plotline, it was incredibly suspenseful and I couldn't shake the feeling of dark shadow looming overhead. The main antagonist was downright creepy and many of the murders were terribly gruesome and left me shuddering. Still, all of the suspense and the murders seemed to take a backseat to the main plot of the whole series, which only seemed to be introduced in the final 50 pages or so. I was confused as to why there was such an elaborate (and frankly, very compelling and frightening) plot in this book if it was only a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. You would think it difficult to undermine a bunch of grotesque murders and an evil spirit out to take over the world, but it happens.

Despite the minor complaint about the plot, I really enjoyed this book. The characters came alive for me, and they were far from perfect. I admit Evie got on my nerves at first with her flair for the dramatic and her headstrong stubbornness, but she grew so much throughout the book (as did so many other characters). I am looking forward to reading the next book

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