58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Intelligent, complex and historically accurate, The Diviners in a riveting tale that plumbs the depths of human wickedness brought about by religious fanaticism and fascination with the occult. The blend of tension, charm, creepiness, atmosphere and characterization come together to ensure this to be an absorbing and intellectually stimulating experience. This is an absolutely phenomenal book and one of the best of the year thus far. An indisputable must-read for anyone who enjoys a thoroughly bone-chilling story set against well researched historical backdrop.
Set in the Roaring Twenties in New York City, The Diviners tells the story of a group of young people investigating a series of gruesome occult-based murders. Something dark and powerful has been unleashed in New York, an evil force determined to bring about an apocalypse. People are being murdered - their body parts missing - and it all seems to follow a very disturbing pattern suggesting that the murderer is trying to finish a dark ritual started many years ago. A ritual that will unleash hell on earth and destroy everything. When Evie is shipped off to New York to live with her Uncle Will, the last thing she expects is to find herself right in the middle of a terrifying murder case. Instead of attending glamorous parties and enjoying vibrant New York life, she now has to deal with a psycho-ghost intent on carrying out his evil plan. Will her special powers help catch the killer? Or will the killer get to her first?
Evie (or as Theta calls her, Evil) is a fascinating character. Bold, attention-loving, dauntless, unpredictable, loud-mouthed and quick-witted, she's an unstoppable force, a real tornado of a girl. She's a troublemaker. She doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut and rarely listens to anyone else, especially her parents and uncle . She doesn't back down from anybody and isn't easily intimidated. She's curious (sometimes a little bit too much for her own good), intelligent, snarky and pos-i-tute-ly energetic. All in all, she's a fine example of a reckless, fun-loving, convention-breaking flapper gal. On top of that, she is also a diviner, a person with a special ability. Evie's special talent allows her to tell people's secrets just by holding an objects that belongs to them and concentrating on it. Her extraordinary personality makes it extremely fun to follow her adventures. I instantly connected with her and wanted to get to know her better. She is my kind of heroine and I can't wait to meet her again.
All the characters in The Diviners - and it's a rather large cast - are beautifully fleshed out, vibrant and intriguing. They possess great qualities - their behaviour, motivations and reactions to events taking place around them are realistic and the range of emotions they show is quite incredible. I found them convincing, three-dimensional, and easy to care about. Some characters I liked more than others, but overall each one of them had a role to play - even if only a minor one - and they all seemed essential to the plot. I appreciated the diversity of cultural and social backgrounds that these characters came from and the fact that these were not your stereotypical, embellished YA heroes and heroines, but rather real teenagers, with real problems, dreams and fears. Misfits who struggled through life, drank, cried, worried and lied. I also liked the fact that the romance part of the story was almost non existent and all the romantic plot threads took a back seat to the main storyline.
At nearly 600-pages-long, this behemoth of a novel offers an insightful, compelling narrative, a meticulously researched historical and cultural background, a completely mind-blowing world-and-character building, and a disturbing story line that is sure to send chills down your spine. Could this book have been shorter? Perhaps. Would I want it to be shorter? Absolutely no. I loved every detail, every little nuance that Libba Bray weaved into the plot. They all added depth to the story and helped recreate the unique atmosphere of 1920s New York. In the Author's Note, Bray talks about the many hours spent pouring over books, photographs and various other sources that went into creating the world of The Diviners and I can't help but to feel impressed with how fabulous a job she did. She has breathed life into this story, these characters and settings. She made me forget about the real world for a while and lose myself in the world of flappers, vibrant city life, hobble skirts, first automobiles, jazz and petting parties. And it was swell! Everything - from the slang words and outfits to the social movements and politics of that time period - was fantastic. I really couldn't have loved this book more! So don't let the size of this book intimidate you, once you get sucked into the story you'll be in a real page-turning frenzy!
All in all, The Diviners is an accomplished novel and a very exciting new YA series that is as ambitious and intelligent as it is entertaining and downright scary! I highly recommend it!
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2012
So, I never read Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy (there's many a friend, book blogger and book addict who would tell me that I'm missing out), but I did read her book Beauty Queens, which sent me rolling on the floor with laughter. I just could not get over the sheer wit and utter ridiculous satirical nature of that book. From that moment on I was hooked. I had to devour every future Bray title. Now, I was a little surprised when I saw that her new series, The Diviners, was more of a historical fiction novel mixed with the supernatural -but it sounded like so much fun, so I couldn't say no.
In The Diviners, readers are introduced to young Evie O'Neill, a recent transplant from small-town Ohio to the glamorous world of 1920s New York, who has come to live with her uncle at a rather strange museum known as The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Soon after settling into her new life, Evie falls in with a rather...unorthodox crowd -an ambitious Ziegfried Follies girl named Theta who is hiding a dark past, a mysterious student known as Jericho, and a young African-American man named Memphis who is battling the prejudices of the time. After a string of occult-based murders sets off a city-wide panic (and media frenzy) Evie and her uncle are brought in to help solve the case, and it is only with the help of Evie's new friends (and her strange abilities) that the mystery can be solved.
Wow. Just wow -I think that's the first thing that comes to mind when I think back on this book. It was freaking amazing. Just completely engrossing, incredibly well-written and offered an elaborate maze of twists and turns that kept me glued to every single page! I thoroughly enjoyed the 1920s backdrop, and Bray did an excellent job of bringing that period to life while expertly weaving in this fascinating exploration of the occult and some of the strange societal obsessions at the time with seances, superstition and other supernatural things. I even thought her depiction of religion and occultism offered a unique parallel description of a time and society caught between the two (though it may offend some more conservative readers).
Probably the best way to describe this rather genre-bending book is as something of a 1920s police procedural/mystery with a heavy dose of occultism, crazy serial killers, a dash of the supernatural, a hint of romance and some thriller elements. Not that Diviners really needs a explanation -this book truly is in a genre of its own. It completely stands alone from the pack (in my humble opinion) and was truly remarkable. The only tiny, tiny bit of criticism I have for this book is that it just seems a little long -maybe it could have used a little more editing, but it wasn't a significant enough issue that it really bothered me.
If you're looking for a fantastic read, look no further. Diviners is one of the most compelling books I've read all year. Do yourself a favor and pick it up -trust me, it's worth it.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2012
First Sentence: In a town house at a fashionable address on Manhattan's Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.
A Quick Synopsis: Evangeline O'Neill has been exiled from her idyllic hometown of Zenith, Ohio and shipped off to New York City. The time is 1926, a time filled with new theater breakthroughs and secret speakeasies, set against a hustling and bustling background. Living with her Uncle Will, who has an obsession with the occult, Evie worries he'll discover her secret power that got her banished from Ohio in the first place. But it just so happens that her power could help catch a serial killer that's just begun terrorizing New York City recently. As Evie takes on the challenge of defeating the killer, can her New York friends help her complete the task?
The Review: I've always known Libba Bray as an extremely original and adaptable author. What other author can you name that follows up a Victorian historical trilogy with a book about mad cow disease with a trashy role model? And then, don't even mention the fact that she followed THAT up with a satirical novel about "beauty queens"...Unfortunately, though, I've also always known Ms. Bray as an author who takes a relatively long time to release novels. So as I combed through the pages of Amazon, not expecting another Libba Bray book until 2013, The Diviners smacked me in the face, and I could not have been more delighted to know that I would not have to wait so long.
Libba Bray returns to the genre she debuted in, historical fiction with a flair of the supernatural, with The Diviners. Now, before I read The Diviners, if a random guy in the street came up to me and asked me what I found more interesting: Victorian England (as in Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy) or the Roaring Twenties in America (as in here, The Diviners), I'd have answered without a doubt, Victorian England. But The Diviners is making me think twice about that question. Bray literally brings the setting to life. She makes it much more interesting that I'd ever imagined it could be. The entire atmosphere of the Roaring Twenties is there. I'd just happened to read the pages in my textbook on the 1920s the day before, and there are tiny little details in the book that are perfect for you history nerds--for example, the trials of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Bray succeeds in both creating a great quantity of characters as well as a quality cast of characters. The main star of the book is undoubtedly Evie, but the surrounding characters bring a great amount of depth into the story. There's Theta, a Ziegfeld girl with a terrible past; Memphis, who may be more similar to Evie than he thinks; Jericho, a student who's lost more than anyone realises; Mabel, Evie's best friend; even Uncle Will and the antagonist of the story...the list goes on and on. If I had to describe the characters in one word it would be: fascinating.
The plot is rich and suspenseful. Bray fills the pages up with chases, murders, visions, arrests, action and adventure, thrills and chills, cliffhangers, shocking secrets, heartbreaking revelations, and much more. The Diviners is well-paced even though it clocks in at a hefty 578 pages, and I finished it within the span of two days. The best part is that, even though The Diviners is only the first in a series, the ending wraps things up nicely. So The Diviners both stands out from the rest of the pack and stands alone by itself solidly.
The writing is astoundingly good. We all know that Bray can write--after all, she is a recipient of the prestigious Printz Award, but wow, have you ever seen her write like this? For once, I didn't mind an author's pages and pages and pages of description in a book, I even looked forward to it! It's elegant and never feels overdone or awkward. Bray evokes a wide assortment of emotions, and it's an amazing experience. Some reading The Diviners may feel that the book could have been shorter, but I disagree--I think it's fine just the length it is, allowing us to get to know the world and the characters more.
Overall, I cannot recommend The Diviners highly enough. Libba Bray has crafted a captivating story and an enchanting world that you never want to leave from! This will certainly go on my Best Books of 2012 list, and just may be the best historical of 2012. It's a grand, sweeping, dazzling achievement. That sequel can't come soon enough--maybe that's the book I'll be waiting for in 2013? I simply can't wait for it any longer!
Memorable Quote: Evie slipped the key into her handbag. She hadn't had a key back in Zenith; her every move had been monitored by her parents. Things would be different here. Things would be perfect. She went to hug Uncle Will, who stuck out his hand for a shake.
"Welcome to New York, Evie."
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2013
I enjoyed this book up until the end. It is amazing to me that a near-600 page book cannot tie-up the story lines of its many characters; too many questions were left unanswered. My suspicion is that the author did this so she could capitalize on a second book or series. Series are great, but not when an individual book does not resolve and too many elements are introduced in the final pages. Libba Bray describes the liberties she takes as "narrative tinkering," but I call it an assault on the integrity of the story form. It is a shame that authors write with dollar signs in mind, not mindful of the art form or the readers who are obviously being strung along.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2013
Admittedly, I am only 120 pages in out of 671 on my kindle, but I find Evie to be an insecure, immature, selfish, and plain old annoying social climber. Also, as a few other readers have noted, the "slang" usage ("po-si-tute-ly" gets used almost every other page, I kid you not, and then there's the "not on your life-ski", "she is the elephant's eyebrows", and the many many references to "giggle water", "hooch", "coffin varnish" and "panther sweat" ugh) gets aggravating after awhile because it comes off as rather forced. Yes Libba Bray, you did your research. Thoroughly. But I feel as if a lot of the period details are included simply to prove how well she researched the roaring twenties rather than to further character development or the plot.
I'll update my review when/if I finish the book. Sigh. Quite disappointing.
UPDATE: Well--I finished it! Evie only gets moderately more likeable but I still feel like Libba Bray kept thinking "I want Evie to have spunk!" while she was writing this character. The ending is dissatisfying, because the primary mystery of the "murderer" is solved rather quickly and anti-climatically and then we're diverted to a bigger mystery. Overall still a two-star book from a writer whose other works I've quite enjoyed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
There are books I sprint through, books I plod though, and books I put down and only read more of when I have nothing else to do. This book was sadly the third kind.
I adored the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray so I was excited to read something new from her. The premise is intriguing - who doesn't love murder mysteries and people with supernatural powers?
The tie between the mystery and the supernatural is loose, though, with most Diviner characters not impacting the main plot line or mystery at all. Characters like Memphis and Theta were interesting, but ended up being distractions from the main story. They were also better characters and easier to root for than Evie, the main character, which is never ideal. Despite the premise, I never felt the suspense I expect from mystery stories. I think the book would have been stronger if Bray had focused on either the mystery or the increasing prevalence of Diviners in the world and what that means. Trying to combine them makes the story disjointed and overly long, both of which contributed to this book taking me forever to finish reading.
I know Libba Bray can write. I know she can write good historical fiction without saturating it with slang and unnecessary details. I know she can make characters I can relate to (like Gemma Doyle). I just think this attempt fell flat.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Evie, a spunky flapper expelled from Ohio and sent to live with her uncle in Manhattan, explores the nightlife and the occult in this lively, scary story. Hiding her own psychic powers, she links up with an eclectic cast of characters with their own supernatural gifts as she helps her uncle solve a gruesome murder case. This book has my two favorite ingredients: a delightful heroine and a truly awful villain. Naughty John made me afraid of my own Kindle, no joke. A great mix of humor and horror, The Diviners was positutely paralyzing!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2012
Libba Bray has done it again! I cannot say enough good things about this book! It's not a huge secret or anything- I adore her! She has only written one book that I didn't LOVE, and even with that one, I liked it. (In case you're wondering which book that is, it's Going Bovine, which funny-enough, is the one that won awards...) I loved her Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing), and Beauty Queens was my 2nd favorite book of 2011. When I heard Libba had a new Historical/Paranormal series coming out, I was thrilled, but also a bit nervous about whether or not she could top the Gemma Doyle books (they are also Historical/Paranormal). Well, let me tell you, she has WELL outdone herself, because The Diviners was AMAZING!
First off, the timing of the release of this book was fantastic. It is such a creepy, nail-biter of a story, that reading it around Halloween is just perfect! I found myself reading late into the night, jumping at every little noise, and sleeping with the lights on. I wasn't expecting the creep-factor to be as high as it was, but it did so much for the story. And the story! It was so well executed, and so expertly paced, that it never seemed like it was the 592 page monstrosity that it was. It read as quickly as a book half its length. The plot was amazing, very original, and one that kept me guessing the entire time. I still have loads of questions, which ensures that I will be reading the second installment the moment I can get my hands on it. Honestly, though, the plot wasn't even the best part of this book...
Libba Bray is a very, VERY gifted writer, and her two biggest strengths are world building and character development. The Diviners was written from more than ten different points of view, and every single one was done extremely well. Developing that many different characters is hard enough, but to actually manage to write their POVs, without confusing the reader? Before I read this book, I would have said that it was impossible, but not only did Libba do it, she did it so that I really felt a connection to every one. There were characters I loved (Evie, Theta, Sam, Memphis), and then here were characters I loved to hate (Naughty John, Bill, The House), but there was not a single character that I didn't have an opinion of, and that is rare for me. The other thing Libba masterfully accomplished in this book was her depiction of the era and setting. Just WOW! She really did her research, capturing the essence of the Harlem Renaissance, the Prohibition Era, and NYC as a living, breathing thing. I think one of the reasons I as able to read this book so quickly was that I felt like I was dropped into the story; I didn't feel like the reader of a story, but rather a participant, and that feeling had everything to do with Libba's world building.
Overall, I have to say that this is one of my favorite books this year; Libba takes the number two spot again! (Sorry, Libba, but nothing is going to touch David Levithan's beautiful, Every Day.) If you haven't already decided that you need to read The Diviners, let me be the one to tell you that you must! It is pos-i-tute-ly amazing!
My Rating: 5 stars
Grade Level Recommendation: This book is pretty scary, and there are some intensely graphic murders. Also, there is loads of drinking, as several scenes take place in speakeasies. No sex to speak of, and really not much language. I would say this is appropriate for 5th grade and up, as long as the reader isn't too easily spooked, and isn't intimidated by the length of the book. (ages 10+)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The first book that after reading the free sample I felt was worth $10 on my new Kindle. Libba Bray does such a wonderful job creating a very dark atmosphere and develops these characters at a perfect pace. I absolutely love that this was set in the flapper era in Manhattan, just so many great details that one gets to explore. Evie, the main character manages to be dynamic without being obnoxious. She like so many characters in this story are hiding dark secrets but she chooses to be strong, smart & full of vibrant recklessness rather than shy & false. I just couldn't put it down, and was grateful that while very creepy, this story did not give me nightmares. There is a lovely balance of the dark macabre elements mixed with the teen romance & frivolity. The only real complaint I have is wishing Evie had not been a blond, I recall it being halfway in the story that this minor detail is revealed & up til that point pictured her as a dark haired vixen rather than the standard blond bombshell. Also I noticed the hardback edition came with a fun two page fake newspaper attached and wish that had been included in the e-edition. Oh and now I have another series to wait on, which just kind of sucks...but anyone looking for a light creepy supernatural read should definitely invest in this story.(
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Evangeline "Evie" O'Neill has been sent to live with her Uncle William Fitzgerald in New York because of her deviant behavior and a party trick gone wrong. But while there, a string of mysterious murders occur, and Uncle Will is on the case.
I tried to keep myself from saying this for the longest time, afraid it would curse me, but now that I'm done I can finally say it:
I loved this book!
FINALLY, I found a young adult paranormal book that didn't want to make me gouge my eyes out! This book had all the elements I love:
1) A well-developed female character. She's fun, fun-ny, upbeat, sometimes silly, sometimes selfish, sometimes vapid, but also smart and willing to say "I was wrong". She doesn't collapse and have to have a guy save her at the last minute. She talks back to people and stands her ground. She DRINKS alcohol and gets drunk! (This isn't to say drinking to get drunk is a good thing, but it's nice to see people act like freakin' people in YA novels.) AND she doesn't ONCE slut-shame her girlfriends.
2) Not an over-emphasis on the love story. For the most part, Evie isn't on the hunt for a guy. She has some sexual chemistry with Woodhouse and Sam Lloyd, and Jericho is sweet on her, but really, it's more about her abilities and the murder mystery. Now, the last 20% or so adds Jericho as a serious interest, which I thought unnecessary and silly (Mabel is sweet on Jericho, and it only seems that Jericho is even included when he gets injured and tells his sob story). We have a secondary love story, the one between Theta and Memphis, which is pretty awesome, even though it's basically glorified Love at First Sight. I think it was more tolerable because A) it WASN'T between primary characters, B) it wasn't the emphasis, and C) it was well-written.
3) Great atmosphere and surroundings. Bray did some serious research on her time period, and it shows. While for some, it got annoying hearing various characters sling around 20's slang, for me, it was WONDERFUL to hear characters talk like they might have actually spoken in the time period where they live.
4) Wonderful secondary characters. The cast is so diverse and populated with wonderful characters - not just cardboard figures running around, CHARACTERS. My favorite, by far, was Theta, but I also enjoyed Gabe and Memphis (actual black characters, showcasing another wonderful aspect of the 20's, the Harlem Renaissance, DO NOT FAINT!!), Will, Mabel, Henry... And what is even more awesome, is that their backstories tread that perfect line of drama. Theta's backstory is pretty freakin' rough, and yet not once is it as overdramatic as, say, any of Anita Blake's disposable boyfriends.
I wasn't even sure I would enjoy this, because the entire plot basically revolves around a spirit let loose during an Ouija board game and deals a lot with corrupted Christian spiritualism. Number one, Ouija boards are just really silly boards that people use in party games. Number two, I just don't like stories where their plots hinge on the occult, particularly ones that contrast to Christianity. (Don't ask me why - maybe it's burnout from the years in the evangelical camp.) That said, the story itself was pretty well-done and, dare I say, legitimately creepy. (Though I personally feel it would be almost be more creepy to have a character use the legend of Naughty John as the basis for being a serial killer.)
I love so much of this and yet I still waver between 4 and 5 stars with extreme hesitance to pick up book 2. Why? Well for me, it's all because of the last 5% or so of the book - the last bit that feels more like a setup for the next book rather than a proper conclusion for the book I'm reading.
I'm not a fan of cliffhangers, and I'm not a fan of authors leaving huge long trails of story threads, basically demanding readers come back for more. I'm a big girl, and if I love something, I don't need to be connived into reading more.
But despite the bumps at the end, I really enjoyed myself reading this, much more than I could ever have hoped for. Libba Bray wrote a compelling story set in the Roaring Twenties with a solid cast, and I'm just pleased as punch that I found a book I enjoyed.