Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review: The Diviners - Libba Bray

The Diviners
Libba Bray 
Series: The Diviners, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

According to Amazon, I purchased The Diviners at the beginning of 2014 as a Kindle Daily Deal; however, I just recently got around to reading it, mostly because I picked up an ARC of Lair of Dreams at BEA. Regardless, I'm happy I finally joined the party on this one because it was pos-i-tute-ly fantastic!

The Diviners takes place in the 20s and follows Evie O'Niell, a young girl from a small town, as she's sent away to New York City to live with her uncle. While in New York, Evie's uncle becomes involved with an occult murder investigation, and Evie ends up more invested in the investigation than she ever imagined.

I have this odd habit of reading blurbs really far in advance before actually starting a book, so when I read a book, I usually have no idea what it's about. That was definitely the case with The Diviners. Since I don't really read blurbs, the fact that The Diviners takes place in the 20s was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise for me. I'm pretty sure the only other book I've read that takes place in the 20s is The Great Gatsby, which wasn't a favorite school read of mine. The Diviners, while maintaining a similar 20s feel, had a much different take on the time period, very much influenced by the infusion of supernatural elements in the story.

While it took me some time to adjust, I really enjoyed the language of this book. Libba Bray obviously did vast research to make sure the slang used by the characters was accurate as well as to make sure the customs and behaviors of the characters fit with the time period. In school we covered some information about the culture of the 20s, but Libba Bray absolutely brought it to life in The Diviners. The complete emersion of the reader into this time period, especially through the eyes of a teenage girl, was one of my favorite aspects of this book.

The 20s, while providing a rich backdrop for the story, also contributes heavily to how the action comes across. There's something very mystical about a time with very little technology - with characters having to use landlines and having no quick way to communicate with someone from afar - especially in this story, where a character in sudden danger can't simply pick up a cellphone to call for help. As well as the technology, the general ideology of people during the 20s was very different than it is now. There's a difference between learning about how immigrants and people of color were treated during the 20s at school and seeing it "first hand" in a book. I loved the way every aspect of the 20s felt so real and genuine - when I think of the book I kind of book that old movie filter over the image in my mind, as though it was actually from the 20s.

As for the characters, I found Evie O'Neill to be utterly charming. She's very much a small town girl trying to make it big in the city, but she comes across so cutting edge and modern even in New York City. Although she didn't experience the depths of emotion I usually look for in a main character, I felt like her character, while on the lighter side, was still well rounded. Out of her friends, I found Theta to be exactly how she wants to portray herself: mysterious and intriguing. As the story went on, there were gradually more details about Theta's past revealed. Going into Lair of Dreams, she's one character I'm really interested in learning more about.

Even though Evie hangs out with her friends Mabel, Theta, and Henry, Evie is most often surrounded by her uncle Will, Sam Lloyd, and Jericho. Sam Lloyd (for some reason it just feels more appropriate to use his full name) literally gives Evie a run for her money - he picks her pocket the first time they meet. He, like Evie, is a modern characterization of the 20s. Sam Lloyd's story seamlessly lays the groundwork for one aspect of what Lair of Dreams will be about while simply appearing as his story. He's definitely a spitfire character like Evie is, and it's fun to see them banter together.

Jericho, on the other hand, is much more old fashioned than Sam Lloyd. Jericho wants no parts in the underground parties that Evie goes to, nor does he want to live on the edge - he just wants to stay out of trouble and for good reason. Jericho has a secret that I definitely found unexpected. Jericho really grew on me throughout The Diviners, and I'm definitely rooting for him in Lair of Dreams.

One of the other main characters in the story is Memphis. Memphis lives a very different life from Evie - living in a black community with his God-fearing aunt - and rarely crosses paths with Evie. Even though there was plenty of Memphis in the story, I didn't find him as compelling as Evie. He definitely had a story to tell and I'm interested in what will happen with him next, he was just sort of there for me. However, I definitely appreciated how his point of view contributed to rounding out the portrayal of 20s culture throughout the story.

Libba Bray weaves together a very complex story in The Diviners, layering different characters, memories, background histories, and an unwavering magic that is present through it all. While capturing the distinct feeling of the 20s through the story and language, she maintains an elegant prose in her descriptions while infusing a mystical feeling through it all. I really liked The Diviners, and I highly recommend this book for fans of young adult with 20s culture, supernatural mysteries, and the occult.

- Kiersten

What books have you read that take place in the 20s?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one! I've wanted to check it out for the longest time because it sounds like something I'd love. I also loved some of Libba's other books.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    1. I haven't read any of her other series but this one was great and Lair of Dreams is great so far. Definitely worth a try!