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The Diviners Paperback – December 3, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-Set in 1920s New York City, this literary tour-de-force from Printz Award-winner Bray offers grand themes, complex characters, and suspense. After her secret gift for divining information from objects lands her in trouble, 17-year-old Evangeline O'Neill is sent from Ohio to live with her uncle, who runs a museum specializing in folklore and the occult in Manhattan. Evie is a quintessential flapper: not really bad, but rebellious and yearning to fly free of her Babbitt-like existence. Although she starts out her new life like the party girl she was back home, her pursuits become more serious when her uncle is asked to help solve a series of strange murders. She crosses paths with Memphis Campbell, a black numbers runner in Harlem, whose power to heal by laying on hands failed him when he tried to save his mother. Other characters include a homosexual composer who meets people in dreams, a Ziegfeld girl with a past, a pickpocket searching for his family, and a young research assistant with his own secrets. Bray develops each of these characters and their gifts, gradually bringing them together in a chilling and thrilling battle with Naughty John, a paranormal serial killer. Over the course of the novel, people (mainly good) smoke, drink, and use other illegal substances. These peccadilloes are contrasted with the values of the hellfire-and-brimstone cult that spawned Naughty John. The compelling and dramatic supernatural plot explores self-actualization, predestination, the secrets everyone hides, and, of course, good versus evil. An absolutely terrific read and, thankfully, the first in a planned series.-Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, MEα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A Publishers Weekly Best YA Book of the Year
* "1920s New York thrums with giddy life in this gripping first in a new [series] from Printz winner Bray...The intricate plot and magnificently imagined details of character, dialogue and setting take hold and don't let go. Not to be missed."―Kirkus (starred review)
* "The compelling and dramatic supernatural plot explores self-actualization, predestination, the secrets everyone hides, and, of course, good versus evil. An absolutely terrific read and, thankfully, the first in a planned series."―School Library Journal (starred review)
* "The book is big and wants to be the kind of thing you can lose yourself in. Does it succeed? It's jake, baby."―Booklist (starred review)
*Everyday moments and a romance or two help lighten the mood of this creepy, dark, twisted tale of things that go bump in the night."―VOYA (starred review)
* "The book is engrossing, spooky, and thought-provoking."―Library Media Connection (starred review)
" [A] lavish supernatural thriller...Wisecracking Evie is a likable heroine, and all signs point to intriguing complications and more malevolent spirits on the rise in succeeding books."―The Horn Book
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As the Solomon's Comet is to make its pass of earth, the time for Armageddon to be unleashed on the planet draws closer and someone has returned to fulfill the evil prophecy. But nothing is ever as simple as that and so there's a string of murders to solve in a city full of strange occurrences, unknown powers and wicked intentions.
When Evie gets into trouble for her drunken attempt to vilify a young man, her parents choose to send her away to her bachelor uncle all the way to New York City to cool things down in Ohio. In New York City, Evie is reunited with Mabel and is ecstatic to be there as her Uncle Will isn't the all that restrictive as long as Evie stays out of trouble. She meets Sam, Jericho as well as Theta and Henry, each of whom have their own life troubles to deal with. Then there's Memphis and his little brother as well as his best friend, Gabriel who are just trying to survive life in the twenties.
Evie is very carefree and loud in her ways even if she doesn't really like herself all that much. However, I really liked her. As much as she's rash and moody, she's also very outspoken and opinionated. Jericho is this quiet and bookish boy who think he's a freak and I just love him the most as he's amazing all around. Memphis is a poet, Henry is a pianist; really, everyone in this book is so dynamic and their interactions with each other are so interesting, especially the friendship of Theta and Henry. More, please.
The historical setting of the roaring twenties is done amazingly well. It's apparent just how much research went into constructing the world with such vivid details of how life used to be in a bygone era. The language, the fashion, the lifestyles just work together as a single unit to transport the reader to that time with breathtaking ease.
On a deeper level, there's a lot of moral relativism, agnosticism, religious philosophies as well as political notions in The Diviners, as the characters often find themselves discussing one philosophy or the other. I find such talk fascinating because its edutainment value really opens up the mind to how the world works. I particularly enjoyed reading about theodicy because it's a very relatable and oft-repeated philosophy in today's world.
The Diviners is one hell of a creepy book. I love reading horror because it's so much fun! I will admit that I avoided reading this at night when I got slightly spooked out a couple times. Still, there's murder, there's cannibalism, there's utter gore; all of which I found oh-so-enticing to read about. The whole cast of characters is lively and there are some very hilarious moments despite the plot being so grim. There's a lot to The Diviners and in essence, it's a perfect read to immerse yourself in on a rainy day.
1. (+) Evie, the protagonist - Not going to lie, Evie can be hard to like sometimes. She's that headstrong, rebellious teen who you know has a good heart but who will let her own impulses (to party, to be unforgettable, etc.) get the better of her, even lead her into traps. Sometimes that means acting like the chick in the horror movie who you want to shake some sense into... She also has a secret power that's brought her difficulty in the past, and watching her struggle with it, and the way people judge her--they say that she's "too much" for Ohio and causes too many scandals--that's what I thought brought the most edges to her character and made me like her. She handles herself well when it matters the most.
2. (+) World Building - So when I started reading this, I thought there would only be paranormal elements but there's some steampunk in there too, and I love that Uncle Will's museum is also known as the museum of creepy crawlies, 'cause that's a great way to describe the underlying danger. You find out about all the powers each Diviner holds, whether they're a main character or not. There are mysterious government projects and hints that there's a reckoning to come. There's an end of times cult with its own version of the Bible. Libba Bray even develops different parts of NYC - where Memphis lives versus where Evie lives in privilege... though one thing that did bother me were the names. Memphis, Jericho, Theta? Those are the names of the other main characters, and it kind of sounds like they were just pulled out of a random book because they sounded cool.
3. (+) Romance - One of the things I loved about Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy was that though the romance was there, it was more of a side plot, and Bray didn't let it overwhelm the rest of the story. The same goes with The Diviners. Evie's got a little something going on, maybe even a love triangle in the making, and Memphis and Theta are beginning to get to know each other. All of it's sweet and a way of letting the characters get their guard down before s*** really happens (or that's my impression, at least -- enjoy it while it lasts).
4. (+) Villain - You know how they say the scariest villain is one who believes the most in his causes? Yeah, so you won't be sympathizing with Naughty John, since he doesn't to be entirely human and he's acting upon the beliefs of a cult re: the rising of the Beast and the end of times, but who cares? He's creepy as hell, and the scenes interspersed between the other characters' adventures remind you of the danger he poses.
5. (+) Character Cast - One of the best parts of this novel is that it has multiple POVs so you get to learn more about the other characters who take more of a main role in the next novels. You're not just stuck in Evie's head - you get to hear from Jericho, who's tortured by his past and what other people did to him, what that means for his future; Memphis, who too has a gift but whose gift seems to be leading to him to tragedy with his family; Theta, who's on the run from her past and has only found shelter in "her brother" Henry; and several other characters like Sister Walker and Ruta whose perspectives add mystery and suspense to the series plot and plot of this book.
6. (+) 20s Vibe - I don't know much about the 20s beyond flapper dresses, but Bray starts off the story in a way reminiscent of Fitzgerald, with the distanced tone and characters calling each other 'old sport,' and there's this frenzied energy of who's going to party the hardest, of the city that never sleeps etc. etc. imbibing everyone. There are plenty of Prohibition jokes, and I didn't know what speakeasies or who the Ziegfield girls were before this but I know now. I never once felt like I wasn't in the 20s with the characters.
7. (--) Fluff - There was a part of me that wondered if everything that was there was necessary. I can tell that some of the fluff is because Libba Bray is foreshadowing and setting up events for the rest of the series, but the story takes so long to get started, and not all of the plot and character lines have converged yet so that makes reading them now a bit frustrating. Sometimes I had to push myself to keep at this monstrous, 600+ page novel.
8. (+) The Writing - It's Libba Bray. If you've read any of her other work, you'll probably like the writing style here too. If you haven't anything of hers, trust that you're in accomplished hands.
9. (+/-) Pacing - The other negative also has to do with the length of this novel - I mentioned before that it took the story a while to start, right? And the fact that there are multiple POVs sometimes means that the flow gets interrupted. Towards the end, the pacing picks up for all the characters, but again 600 page novel where stuff is sometimes happening, but not necessarily to advance the immediate plot. It's hard to maintain the momentum.
10. (+) The Cover - It's obvious that whoever designed the cover actually read the novel. The eye and the symbols around it are seen in a dream and represent the Diviners as a whole. Plus, there's that hint of the city beyond, and a bit of the darkness too, with that shade blue.
A fun start to a promising series from the talented Libba Bray that's sure to bring her a legion of new fans.
Most recent customer reviews
I have had this book on my radar for such a long time but I never picked it up because of it's size plus I wasn't really sure what it was about.Read more