chai ♡'s Reviews > The Diviners

The Diviners by Libba Bray
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2018, favorites, fiction, young-adult, ya-sff, lgbtq-rep-side

This book makes me feel so nostalgic for life in 1920s New York which is weird because I wasn’t even alive for that decade, so why do I miss it? Seriously. Is it just me or do other people get homesick from books? You miss the comforting feeling of the characters and the world created by the author and wish to stay long after you turn the last page?

The impossible wonder of an era I was never a part of still snags at me and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

So, what's this book?

It’s 1926 and when 17-year-old Evie O'Neill is unceremoniously banished to live in New York with her eccentric bachelor Uncle Will—the curator of a museum of the occult—Evie feels the first fragile unfurling of something she thinks might be freedom. Evie, full and heavy and burdened with a fearsome urgency to live, decides that no rift in the earth will open between her and the greatest adventure of her life. But things seldom go as one might expect, and when a killer passes in secret through the streets of Manhattan and leaves no trace of themselves but fear and a string of gruesome murders, Evie’s uncle is tapped for help in solving them. There’s only horror now as new truths soon come clear to Evie: she must reveal her long-hidden supernatural ability to help the investigation…and she might not be the only one touched with supernatural gifts.

Fear is vying with courage, and courage is winning in this suspense-filled murder mystery, cobbled together with a heady brew of visceral horror, a wicked sense of pace, threat and a lurking delight in causing jarring terror. Libba Bray knows just how to twist the knife to make it hurt oh so good and how to turn the screw to make it almost too stressful to bear. The slow unfurling of every new revelation is tantalizing—you can scarcely feel the shape of it, but it’s clear that everything will change. These mysteries are, of course, the driving heart of the novel but throughout, moments of light and hope and love pierce through the storm clouds, keeping the story from teetering too far into the unrelentingly sinister. Bray is also an incredible writer with a good eye for lyrical text and the audiobook has such a way of enhancing the spine-chilling and ghostly atmosphere she’s crafted.

I'm also hard-put to think of a time period that better captures the eeriness and thrill of a roaring mystery than 1920s New York; the stark contrast between the stately stasis of a respectable house and the desperate wildness of the speakeasy and the Ziegfeld girls is the perfect stage on which to turn a story on its head. We are given a vivid glimpse of a time gone by and it’s evident that the author went through painstaking work to make her world feel real, using period-specific language and detail to deftly create the sense of real places inhabited by relatable, vividly rendered people—all while liberally sprinkling all things magic and monsters and the unaccountable.

But The Diviners is much more than just about solving murder mysteries. It’s also about exploring the lives on their peripheries: tangled character histories and perspectives craftily orbit the plot and the narration, which is told through alternating voices, lingers in their memories and lives.

Evie is both magnetic and obnoxious and there’s a bull-in-china-shop quality to her character. In one vital way, though, she is different than your typical introverted, meek and martyrish lady lead. It's a bit amazing, encountering a female protagonist who's allowed to be loud, self-absorbed and says exactly what she’s thinking, without a lick of tact to make it go down easier. Strange as it sounds, I was grateful for her haughtiness and recklessness even as I sometimes wrinkled my nose at her. I think it works because Evie is also very self-aware, and the narrative acknowledges all of her flaws instead of just taking for granted that Evie’s brashness is an uncontested virtue. It’s also not hard to see that most of the facades Evie puts out are a lie, a ghost, a stage role performed for a very select private audience. Underneath is a frightened, fragile girl, still mourning the death of her big brother and wishing she could be enough for her parents.

Of course this world wouldn’t be as fascinating if it was just Evie soaking up the spotlight. One of this book’s strengths is making every character come alive, step whole and entire onto the page, even if only for the length of a scene or two, including: Memphis Campbell, a young handsome black poet; Sam Lloyd, a rakish Russian pickpocket; Theta Knight, a mysterious dancer running from the ghosts of her pasts and Henry DeBois, her gay musician roommate; alongside, Jericho, Will’s strange assistant. Each of these kids is damaged, trauma lingering in the creases or out in the open, and each of them has a long journey ahead—one that I’m excited to see unfold in the next installments.

It was therefore kind of unfortunate to discover that the last quarter of the book does not quite live up to the high water mark set by the rest of the novel: some characters just conveniently disappear and don’t reappear to influence the narrative at certain points, and others turn up relatively late but play critical roles. Also, the budding of a romance took me off guard and felt unprecedented by everything that has come before.

But at the end of the day, these are two very small quibbles barely marring an immensely engrossing tale—one that I hugely recommend!

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Reading Progress

February 18, 2017 – Shelved
August 4, 2018 – Started Reading
August 8, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-49 of 49 (49 new)

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Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ YOU BETTER LOVE SAM LOYD OR ELSE
ALSO
EVIE


Samuelle js but theta knight is the love of my life


Riley Anderson I also just decided to read this, page 221


Sunny I loved this one! Great in audiobook format.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Sunny wrote: "I loved this one! Great in audiobook format."

Ohhhhh yes I love the audiobook too!!! So creepy & beautiful <3


Elise (TheBookishActress) Samuelle wrote: "js but theta knight is the love of my life"

big mood


Elise (TheBookishActress) in all honesty em i REALLY hope you love this it's what you deserve


Veronika This is amazing book <3 the atmosphere it created was incredible :)


chai ♡ Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "YOU BETTER LOVE SAM LOYD OR ELSE
ALSO
EVIE"


THE REAL QUESTION IS: AM I GOING TO LOVE THEM MORE THAN SEAN KENDRICK??


chai ♡ Samuelle wrote: "js but theta knight is the love of my life"

I don’t know who they are but I can’t wait to love them


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "YOU BETTER LOVE SAM LOYD OR ELSE
ALSO
EVIE"

THE REAL QUESTION IS: AM I GOING TO LOVE THEM MORE THAN SEAN KENDRICK??"


IS THIS A TRICK QUESTION BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE ONE


message 12: by Xin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xin Yaaasssss


Lyvia i just finished it this weekend and it was amazing!! hope you'll enjoy!


Selina this series is amazing!! i cant wait to hear your opinion about it :)


chai ♡ Riley wrote: "I also just decided to read this, page 221"

yayy I hope you love it!!!


message 16: by chai ♡ (last edited Aug 05, 2018 05:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

chai ♡ Sunny wrote: "I loved this one! Great in audiobook format."

so I’ve heard!! I might switch to the audiobook because I’ve heard such great things about it!!


Michaela Wagner I switched to audio halfway through reading it, I was in a slump and it shook me right out of it! I’m considering listening to other things by the narrator because she’s THAT GOOD.


message 18: by Hanaa (new) - added it

Hanaa Seen mixed reviews for this. Hope you enjoy it


message 19: by Cat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cat This series is one of the best things i’ve read in 2018! Before the Devil Breaks You is probably my favorite book of the year. period.


chai ♡ Elise wrote: "in all honesty em i REALLY hope you love this it's what you deserve"

I LOVE U


chai ♡ Veronika wrote: "This is amazing book <3 the atmosphere it created was incredible :)"

aahh I’m glad you loved it!! I’m excited!!


Jessi Trust everyone you've seen so far and try the audiobook! I've never been so shook by a narrator before!


chai ♡ Amanda ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Elizabeth wrote: "I LITERALLY JUST FINISHED ALL THREE BOOKS I AM AN EMOTIONAL WRECK I NEED THE NEXT BOOK I HOPE YOU LOVE IT"

OH MY GOD THIS MAKES ME EVEN MORE EXCITED IM SO GLAD YOU LOVED THEM!!!!!


chai ♡ Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "YOU BETTER LOVE SAM LOYD OR ELSE
ALSO
EVIE"
THE REAL QUESTION IS: AM I GOING TO LOVE THEM MORE THAN SEAN KENDRICK??"
IS THIS A TRICK QUESTION BECAUSE..."


I KNOW UR NOT SUPPOSED TO PICK FAVORITES BUT I LOVE SEAN WITH MY WHOLE HEART AND IF YOU LOVE THESE CHARACTERS HALF AS MUCH AS I KNOW U LOVE SEAN IM IN TROUBLE


chai ♡ Xin wrote: "Yaaasssss"

🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "YOU BETTER LOVE SAM LOYD OR ELSE
ALSO
EVIE"
THE REAL QUESTION IS: AM I GOING TO LOVE THEM MORE THAN SEAN KENDRICK??"..."


I LOVE THEM SO MUCH THAT I'VE BEEN PUTTING OFF READING BOOK 3 BECAUSE I'M SCARED!!! (IT DOES MAKE SENSE)

ALSO MANY PEOPLE DON'T LIKE EVIE AND I FEEL VERY PROTECTIVE ABOUT HER BECAUSE GODDDDD CAN'T GIRLS GET A BREAK ALREADY

ALSO SAM LOYD THAT'S IT I JUST WANTED TO SAY SAM LOYD


chai ♡ Lily wrote: "i just finished it this weekend and it was amazing!! hope you'll enjoy!"

aahh I’m so glad!! I’m loving it so far!!


✨    jamieson   ✨ IF THIS DOESN'T BECAME UR INSTANT FAVE AND YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT IT WITH ME 24/7 IM BLOCKING YOU !


chai ♡ Selina wrote: "this series is amazing!! i cant wait to hear your opinion about it :)"

I'm halfway through and I love everything about this book omg


chai ♡ Hanaa wrote: "Seen mixed reviews for this. Hope you enjoy it"

I am!! it's so good!!


chai ♡ Cat wrote: "This series is one of the best things i’ve read in 2018! Before the Devil Breaks You is probably my favorite book of the year. period."

I've heard it only gets better and better with every book and I'm excited!!


chai ♡ Jessi wrote: "Trust everyone you've seen so far and try the audiobook! I've never been so shook by a narrator before!"

I listened to the last half and it was so fucking good omg I’m definitely getting the audiobook for the rest of the books!!


Sara➽ Ink Is My Sword That tag line had me cracking up, I know that feeling of missing something you don't even know, but I guess that is the power and beauty of books.😍


chai ♡ Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "YOU BETTER LOVE SAM LOYD OR ELSE
ALSO
EVIE"
THE REAL QUESTION IS: AM I GOING TO LOVE THEM MORE THAN SEAN ..."


oh my god you’re scaring me sjdjfjd I almost want to say fuck it to my planned august tbr and binge read the rest of the series but im holding nyself back rip but I SEE WHY SOME PEOPLE WOULD HATE EVIE BUT ALSO FUCK THAT I WANT TO WRAP HER IN BLANKETS AND PROTECT HER FROM THE HATERS!!!!!!! Sam is such a little shit but i love him and lowkey felt bad for him at the end ((view spoiler)


chai ♡ ✨ jamieson ✨ wrote: "IF THIS DOESN'T BECAME UR INSTANT FAVE AND YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT IT WITH ME 24/7 IM BLOCKING YOU !"

LISTEN I CAN EXPLAIN!!! okay it’s not a five but only because I have some qualms with some shit that happens but I have a feeling this is going to be a four-stars-first-book-that-later-turns-into-full-blown-obsession (hello And I Darken and Now I Rise) IM CONFIDENT!!! it was so good though I still don’t have a fav out of the crew but I want to adopt all of them and protect them from the ravages of the world


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "Em wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "YOU BETTER LOVE SAM LOYD OR ELSE
ALSO
EVIE"
THE REAL QUESTION IS: AM I..."


MY GOD you're in for a rollercoaster I SWEAR!!! I *just* finished book 3 yesterday and I've spent half the night rereading parts because GOD HELP ME I needed it!!! The only thing that made me feel good again is to start The Girl in the Tower because somehow I thought that Morozko would help me hahahahaha. Also (view spoiler)


chai ♡ Sara➽[semi-hiatus] (Ink Is My Sword) wrote: "That tag line had me cracking up, I know that feeling of missing something you don't even know, but I guess that is the power and beauty of books.😍"

omg I couldn’t agree more


Eliza maybe you were there in a past life


message 39: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen I'm on the 3rd book in the series & I *love* them


chai ♡ Eliza and her books wrote: "maybe you were there in a past life"

you know what.... 👀 👀


chai ♡ Jen wrote: "I'm on the 3rd book in the series & I *love* them"

I’m SO EXCITED TO READ THE REST


message 42: by K Roma (new)

K Roma My copy is coming on Wednesday, can’t wait to explore this world.


chai ♡ Khalida wrote: "My copy is coming on Wednesday, can’t wait to explore this world."

oh nice!! hope you love it!!!


message 44: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Fernweh - (German) ‘Feeling homesick for a place you have never been to’ (Anjana Iyer)


Selina sooooo when are you gonna read the second book in this series 👀


message 46: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Batchelder the end did leave me wanting more as well. I was frustrated when Memphis was not present again. It did take a while for characters to share important things and begin to take action, but she does do a good job of setting the scene and keeps you yearning for more. You were surprised by the romance? I felt like it was a natural turn of events for those characters, but I felt guilty about it, which as an observer is sort of funny. I was honestly terrified of certain portions of this book, but I could not stop reading.


Adrian Reinstein I totally feel this way... A good book (even some awful books) are so immersive that I feel as though I've lived them, and I go through stages of grief when I no longer have more of the world to explore... Harry Potter is a great example... And I'm half way convinced that rowlings world imagined, is in fact real, and we've all been simply spelled with a memory eraser...


chai ♡ Bryn wrote: "Fernweh - (German) ‘Feeling homesick for a place you have never been to’ (Anjana Iyer)"

Oh. 🤧


chai ♡ Selina wrote: "sooooo when are you gonna read the second book in this series 👀"

EIGHT MONTHS LATER....

this month bc my friends keeps pestering me about it sksjdjsk


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