DESERVES ALL THE STARS. Seriously, if I could give it more than five stars, I totally would. This was such a breath of fresh air in the YA...more4.5/5 stars!
DESERVES ALL THE STARS. Seriously, if I could give it more than five stars, I totally would. This was such a breath of fresh air in the YA paranormal area, guys, I can't tell you how awesome it felt to read this book. Yes, it is rather long (weighing in at a final 578 pages), but it's so totally worth it. "The Diviners" isn't the story of one girl, but it's the story of a city, and the story of a culture riding high, not knowing what's coming down the road.
This book is so rich and complex, it's a bit hard to really talk about it all. I'm happy to say that everyone will find something to love in this book - there's a murder mystery. There's romance. There's really ominous foreshadowing of the Great Depression. There's a lot of coming-of-age stuff going on. There's the occult (and a scary as hell Christian cult within the occult stuff, too - very inception-ish). And even though the blurb bills Evie as the main character, she's only one of several - all going through a journey within New York City in order to not only find a killer, but to discover themselves through a paranormal lens. And it's one of those joyous books where it's not just plot-driven, but character driven, too. While Evie does get a lot of the POV chapters, I'd say the spread of POV chapters is shared pretty well throughout all of the main cast pretty evenly.
There is a bit of this book that feels like filler (especially within the first 100-150 pages), but it's a tiny amount compared to some of the other YA I've read recently that's had filler in it. However. The characters, the worldbuilding, the sheer originality of both, the lack of insta-love and love triangles TOTALLY makes up for that little bit of filler. You will fall in love with these characters to varying degrees - I know I definitely wanted Evie as my bff after the end of the book (oh, that ending! Libba, you're such a tease!). Where a lot of books and authors would save this first book's material as finale material, Bray has done the total opposite and that's really refreshing. Instead, she uses the budding paranormal abilities of those called the Diviners to leave us on a bit of a cliffhanger for the next book in this series, and their origin stories are all interwoven masterfully within this first book.
The world: OH, THIS WORLD. If you love the roaring twenties, you simply must read this book. Bray does an absolutely awesome job reconstructing 1920s New York to the point where it really, really feels real - including the paranormal and cult serial killer bits of it, too. The characters also interweave back into this world so neatly and so well that it all feels natural. If you've been reading the blog for awhile, you'll know that "characters interweaving back into the world" is one of my areas for awesome/top-shelf worldbuilding, and Bray nailed it.
The characters: I wanted a bit more complexity in Evie, but by the end of the book, I did get that through her personal character arc. Bray did us a solid by giving all of the main cast personal character arcs - even if small. All of them felt VERY real, and not a single one of them felt unrealistic or cheesy at all. But at this point in Bray's career with the bibliography she's built for herself, I'd expect nothing less. Especially after "Beauty Queens".
The antagonist: This one merits a special examination because the murders were so creepy and well done. I absolutely love how thorough his origins/backstory were written, and I love the cult that Bray inserted to help explain just why Naughty John embraced his own evil. He's absolutely unapologetic in his evil, and that's what makes him a truly great villain. There's also the occult part of this world (the cult itself is only a small part of this greater paranormal stage) - complete with Ouija boards and seers and dreamers and the whole shebang. It's awesome. It really gives you a flavor of post-Revivalist America before/during the revival of neo-paganism, and it was generally a very culturally rich folklore read there.
Final verdict? You simply MUST, MUST, MUST pick up Bray's latest. It's on my best of 2012 list for a reason. "The Diviners" is out now by Little, Brown for Young Readers in North America, so don't wait! Go out and check it out as soon as you can. You simply just can't miss this book, so worth waiting for, by one of America's best historical fiction YA authors.
(posted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Wow. Helen really takes a beating in this one, guys! I love how Angelini isn’t afraid to torture her characters, and the payoff is huge. Yeah, there’s...moreWow. Helen really takes a beating in this one, guys! I love how Angelini isn’t afraid to torture her characters, and the payoff is huge. Yeah, there’s a love triangle, and I usually hate those, but Angelini really did a good job with this one, and made it work within the plot to really boost all of the sub-arcs and character journey arcs as well as the main arc. Make no mistake – “Dreamless” shows how far Angelini has come within the short span of a year, and shows how far she’s willing to go to make her stories unforgettable.
We get deeper into how the Furies seek their revenge and how the divergence of Greek and Roman myths further complicates the whole Hundred Cousins fleet that’s after Helen and the Delos family (and each other) in this book – and it makes for some fantastic worldbuilding that reinforces even more how dire the situation is, how much higher the stakes are for all of our heroes in this book. We delve deeper into the legend of Helen of Troy and “The Iliad” as we see Helen and Orion fighting together in the underworld, as well as see Helen’s mother Daphne make some surprising alliances without really truly knowing her endgame – and it all makes for a really explosive last third of the book with a really nice big payoff, setting things up nicely for the third (and hopefully not the last) book.
As I said before, I usually really am not into love triangles, but Josie worked it hard here, and made it all work so that in the end we know that Helen definitely still loves Lucas, but, as it seems to me, loves Orion more like a brother despite what happened when the Furies overtook them both. Incest being a major theme in both this series and classical Greek literature, it’s also heavily discussed in this book. So if this is your squick, be prepared for lots of talking about it and lots of self-torture on Helen’s part over her attraction to both Lucas and Orion over it. It’s fascinating how Helen tortures herself over it instead of giving into it – her blood debts with Lucas are paid, after all, and in a lot of places, it’s okay to marry your first cousin. So the question is – why doesn’t she give in? I’m curious about this, and would love to pick Angelini’s brain about it should I get the chance.
What was also great was finally including Claire and Matt more into things – this was badly needed after the ending of book one, but at the same time, even though they’re human, I feel like Claire out of the two of them wasn’t used to her full potential. Matt gets a pretty large role at the end of this book (I won’t say what or how – read it for yourself!) but it seems like Claire was neglected greatly here, and, to a certain extent, treated as if she were made of glass because she was mortal. I’m wondering why Angelini went this route, and maybe if Claire’s most at risk in the next book. Otherwise, I’m a bit puzzled as to why she was treated so gently when it’s clear that at times she was stronger than Helen when it came to a lot of things.
And the final kind of sad character arc transformation that I thought Angelini did brilliantly here – Cassandra turning into The Oracle. The way she painted the picture of this girl becoming something completely inhuman in such a short amount of time was absolutely heartbreaking, yet completely feasible in this situation. I hope she gets a larger part in book three, because she definitely deserves it. And I have the feeling she will, because of that final explosive last third of the book with Orion, Helen, and Lucas concerning the War of the End Times beginning.
I feel like everyone’s character here got sketched out a bit more fully, and a bit more rounded out. We got to see other places, and that filled out the world in the setting capacity even more. This feels like a fully functional real world now, and I can see the War coming, and it isn’t going to be pretty. I enjoyed watching the evolution of everyone and everything in this world in this book immensely and I just seriously can’t wait for book three now.
Best of all? NO MIDDLE BOOK SYNDROME. PARTY AT MY PLACE!
Final verdict? If you haven’t read the first book already, you must read it before this one. You must read it, period! This is on my best of 2012 list, and it’s just…well, at times, breathtaking. Sounds cheesy? Yeah, but it’s also the only way I can really express “all the feels” that couldn’t be held here when it comes to Angelini and her craft. “Dreamless” is out from HarperTeen in North America May 29, 2012 so be sure to pick up a copy then. Middle books of 2012 are on a roll this year, and “Dreamless” is just one more awesome book in that catagory. This is really worth the read, guys.
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
I absolutely ADORED this and can't imagine any other ending. People hating on the author due to ship wars need to stop, because this was really well-w...moreI absolutely ADORED this and can't imagine any other ending. People hating on the author due to ship wars need to stop, because this was really well-written. And that's what should be what matters most. I can't wait for the prequel!(less)
You guys, high/epic fantasy is having a hell of a year in YA. First "Shadow and Bone", then "Seraphina", then "Stormdancer" (more steampun...more4.5/5 stars.
You guys, high/epic fantasy is having a hell of a year in YA. First "Shadow and Bone", then "Seraphina", then "Stormdancer" (more steampunk/alt history than epic/high fantasy, but you know what I mean), and now "Throne of Glass"! I don't think I've seen such a great string of high/epic YA fantasy titles in one year released like this ever! "ToG" has been floating around online (through fictionpress) until Mass took it down in 2008, but I can see why it was so popular when it was a thing of the internets. Are you tired of your heroines being passive, self-loathing, and full of indecision? "Throne of Glass" is definitely something to cure what ails the weak heroine part of the YA market. While I admit that I am very, very sick of love triangles, the rest of the book more than made up for that bit of the plot. Girls, your assassin queen is here, and her name is Celaena.
What I loved most about this book? Celaena herself. While I still haven't gotten to the four prequel novellas that prepare us for the main part of this book, I adore how cocky Celaena is. She's awesome and she knows it. She's beautiful and she's not afraid to hide it. And she will take you down if you cross her. She knows she's the best and isn't afraid to show it. But at the same time, dealing with the horrors of Endovier and the things that are stalking her in the dark makes her vulnerable, and I like the way she handled that - with anger. She was strong, and she behaved, but only out of self-preservation (at least, at first, until she learned to trust certain people). Yet she gets her own story arc, so she does undergo character transformation by the end of the book - which is always important and sets up a lot left to be used for book 2.
I don't know whether I want to date her or be her, to be honest.
The worldbuilding - I could have used more of it, but I guess I'll have to read the prequels and the sequel to get the full flavor. I wish the prequels had been included in the main book as it might have given me a fuller sense of the world, but I did get one that was adequate enough to enjoy where and when I was - both externally (Endovier, the Palace, etc) and internally (the final battle against the Big Bad at the end of the book - a rare example of internal worldbuilding). The whodunnit mystery of the murders helped build the world up with the history of magic and the fae and humans and really just helped glue everything together. While I wish during the assassin trials things had been a little more geographically varied, I'm satisfied with what I got. It worked, and I'm hoping things can only get better from here.
The magic/fae element - LOVED this bit because it was so ambivalent until about halfway in. It all worked, especially with the internal worldbuilding and people from history coming into the picture. The final battle with the Big Bad was my favorite because we finally saw how much Celaena grew as a character throughout the book - she had allies, where she might have scorned them at the beginning of the book. Parts of that big fight definitely felt Whedonesque, I won't lie about that, and it was awesome.
The love triangle: the one downside to the book. Celaena falling for the prince felt very out of character, no matter how charming he was because of her past grudges against the crown. Chaol felt much more natural, and I wish Maas had stuck with him only. If anything, it felt like the triangle just kind of impeded things. HOWEVER, I do see why it was used (in terms of Celaena's character arc and her transformation by the end of the book). So I guess I can pardon this one. Plus all of the action, murder mystery, magic, and Celaena's badassery makes up for it and makes it tolerable.
Final verdict? If you're a high/epic fantasy fan or you just want a great, strong heroine, this book is definitely for you. "Throne of Glass" is a great new series, and I look forward to reading more of Celaena's capers in the future. Its place on my best of 2012 so far list is very well deserved indeed. "Throne of Glass" drops August 7, 2012 from Bloomsbury Kids USA in North America, so be sure to check it out then! Highly recommended!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
The checklists are pretty awesome, but I have to disagree with some major points on some things. Otherwise, pretty much a must-read for any aspiring a...moreThe checklists are pretty awesome, but I have to disagree with some major points on some things. Otherwise, pretty much a must-read for any aspiring author.(less)