Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Posted July 9, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 8 Comments

The Diviners

by Libba Bray

The Diviners

Original Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Length:578 pages
Obtained Via: Library
Format read: Audiobook

First in series
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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.
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Oh, The Diviners. You are a heck of a story, aren’t you? Sometimes I liked you, and sometimes I didn’t. We started off on uneven ground, you and I. You’d introduce me to a character, I’d *finally* get intrigued, just in time for you to move to someone else. That can be the price of having a large cast of characters that don’t meet until quite away through the story.Still, you’re charming, with your roaring twenties parties and flapper speak and New York atmosphere. Not to mention, completely horrifying at times. So I preserved, in the end to feel rather. . . conflicted, shall we say, with my overall thoughts.
I listened to The Diviners on audiobook because I was a bit intimidated by both the size of this book and the mystery part. I’d heard a few parts were truly horrifying, so I thought my brain might be better only have to hear the words instead of see them, since I tend to forget things I hear quicker than things I read. And The Diviners has a lot going for it—a well plotted mystery, Libba Bray’s excellent prose, a charming but flawed protagonist in Evie, and a great mix of diverse side characters.
Evie is shipped off to New York after an unfortunate incident at a party leaves her in social shame. She’s happy and more than eager to go, believing she’ll find more to life in the big city than in Ohio. Evie’s a diviner—she can read people’s objects to discover their secrets. Along the way, she meets other diviners and helps her uncle solve the mystery of the horrifying Pentacle killer.
Even though you can’t help but to shake your head sometimes at Evie, I loved her. She’s a bit naïve, and selfish, but through the story it becomes clear she has a good heart, even if she does seek fame and attention. She’s reckless sometimes, but she’s also brave, and isn’t content to sit back just because people tell her to. Sometimes that leads to bad choices, but it also leads to her becoming a major player in the mystery case. Evie was my favorite thing about this book.
Along with Evie, there are other characters who all have stories of their own—Jericho, Evie’s uncle’s assistant; Theta, the show girl; Memphis, who used to be able to heal and now can’t; Sam Llyod, a bit of a con artist; and Mabel, Evie’s friend. While Bray does a fantastic job in characterizing and humanizing each of these characters, sometimes it did feel like a bit much. The back stories I could understand, but there were a few story lines that seemed unnecessary.
I also struggled with the pacing of The Diviners. I flew through the first ten disc in about a week—not an easy feat, considering the audiobook logs quite a few hours—but those last five? For a bit, it felt like pulling teeth. Part of this is because The Diviners isn’t really a mystery—the reader knows early on who the real pentacle killer is. We see(or in my case, hear) scenes of him with his victims. It’s not exactly hidden. So when the book started getting towards the end, I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. I’ve never thought of myself as the kind of reader who needed suspense to make a book work, but The Diviners felt like a let-down without it.
There were a few secondary issues that hampered my enjoyment as well. I found the romance to be completely out of left field and frankly, boring, with a side of complete lack of chemistry on the part of the characters. It felt just thrown in for added drama. And there were times The Diviners got quite repetitive. That’s something I might not have noticed if I had read the print version, but in the audio version it really began to grate on my nerves.
The audiobook narration itself was fantastic. It’s narrated by January LaVoy, and she does an excellent job. The Diviners has such a large cast that it really needed a narrator that can distinguish several different voices and the audiobook certainly succeeded. I never got confused between the characters and the narration is probably what made me continue with the Diviners during the slump towards the end.

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Overall, I did enjoy The Diviners, but it wasn’t spectacular. It was a good story that I remember more for the narration than the story itself. I loved Evie and I may continue on with the rest of the series, but I’m in no rush, really. 3/5 cupcakes.  

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3 Stars

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8 responses to “Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

    • Stormy

      I only read Libba Bray’s stuff for the first time this year! I’ve read this & also Beauty Queens. Of the two, I liked Beauty Queens better.

  1. I totally agree about the romance. It just seemed to pop up as if the book was like “OH BTW, we have romance too!”

    I liked this book, but there were also times when the whole character switching thing put me off too. But I did remember enjoying the narration, so that’s something. 🙂

    • Stormy

      Yeah, it was weird & I didn’t see the chemistry in the romance. I thought the premise was great, but there were some places I definitely got a little bored(because of the character switching).

    • Stormy

      It took a loooong time for the action to start. A long time. I think the audio made it a little easier to get past that.

  2. I can’t decide if I want to read this. I really loved Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, but I really didn’t like A Great and Terrible Beauty (another historical novel). A coworker was telling me that I need to read this . . . but I’m just not sure.

    If I do read it, though, I will definitely listen to it, like you. I am definitely intimidated by the size of The Diviners.

    • Stormy

      Hmm, that is really interesting to me, because I also really liked Beauty Queens, and liked this one a lot less. I haven’t read the Gemma Doyle trilogy yet but I own the complete trilogy. Those books are also really long, which makes me wonder if I’ll have the same issue I had with this one–too much focus on cramming in so much historical stuff. I loved some of it(and it helped set the scene) but some of it was really unnecessary to me. I remember listening to this one and there was like a ten minute audio part about the wind and how it was touching bankers and show girls and I just remember thinking “okay, the story can start now.”

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