Friday, August 21, 2015

Double ARC Review: Lair of Dreams - Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams
Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners, #2
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Release Date: August 25th, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the ARC I received at BEA!

After loving The Diviners (review here), I was very excited to dive into Lair of Dreams and see what was in store for the characters I came to love. While Lair of Dreams didn't quite live up to The Diviners, I still really enjoyed the story and thought it was a great second book in the series!

In Lair of Dreams, all the characters from The Diviners are back and getting into more trouble. While we still get a bunch of story from Evie, she takes a bit of a back seat to Henry and a new character, Ling, as they explore - you guessed it - the lair of dreams. Ling actually makes a slight appearance in The Diviners, although she is unnamed, so I was excited to see her become a part of this story.

The story starts off in Chinatown as a mysterious sleeping sickness starts to spread throughout the city. While many people have chosen to blame Chinese immigrants for bringing over this disease, the real reason is unknown. Ling, living in Chinatown, feels first hand the effect this sickness is having on the people of her town - not only are people afraid to come to Chinatown, but they want Chinese people to stay out of other parts of Manhattan.

The fact that Ling lives in Chinatown is not the only thing that makes her interesting. Ling grew up feeling the effects of racial prejudice in the 20s - she had an Irish parent and a Chinese parent, neither of whom were citizens since citizenship was rarely granted to Chinese immigrants and marrying a Chinese person meant sacrificing any hope for citizenship. On top of that, Ling is somewhat crippled - she has to wear leg braces and use crutches in order to walk. I'm pretty sure Lair of Dreams is the first book I've read with a character who is physically handicapped, and I think Libba Bray did a fantastic job showing how Ling felt about her legs without making it a huge plot point in the story. Libba Bray once again did an excellent job with incorporating diverse characters into this series in a way that is consistent with the time period and adds another level to the story. As for Ling's personality, she definitely juxtaposes a lot of the characters from The Diviners. Ling loves science and reason, and she's definitely not the type to go to a speakeasy. She's somewhat severe, quite sarcastic, and very devoted to her friends. While I did like Ling, she definitely doesn't have the charisma and charm of Evie O'Neill (which is totally fine in terms of character); however, since Evie's charm was part of the reason I loved The Diviners, this difference in personality made Lair of Dreams less fun than The Diviners.

The other main half of the story was Henry. I always felt like Henry wasn't given enough back story in The Diviners, so I was absolutely thrilled that he got his time to shine in Lair of Dreams. It was great to hear about his (tragic) past, and I loved hearing about his struggles in trying to get his music published.

Similarly to The Diviners, Lair of Dreams is a slow building story, full of many different layers and story lines, and Libba Bray's gorgeous prose once again added another dimension to the story. While it wasn't quite as exciting as The Diviners, I really enjoyed Lair of Dreams. Plus, that ending! I can't wait to find out what happens next, although I'm sure I'll have quite a while to wait.

- Kiersten

Marlon's Lair of Dreams Review
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Shout out to Little Brown for this ARC! And to Libba Bray for taking gorgeous selfies!

After having read Beauty Queens a couple of years ago, and regarding it as completely iconic, I then proceeded to not check if Libba Bray had other books. That was my bad.

I have thus far rectified that mistake through The Diviners and Lair of Dreams.

Lair of Dreams picks up after The Diviners. While the characters from the first book are present, most of them are taken out of center stage in lieu of the new protagonist, Ling. Henry's character is also upgraded and he features prominently in the book. The characters are all trying to deal with Evie outing herself, and a strange sickness spreading through New York.

First of all, the language is awesome. It sure sounds realistic and from the 20s. I don't have an incredible amount of knowledge in the linguistics of this time, but if Libba Bray had made up all of the phraseology, I feel like I'd still believe her. Like in the first book, it can get dicey when uppity characters begin speaking in their formal tones and it's meant to be serious but I can't help but laugh at them. The silliness, however, is generally mitigated by the fact that Bray's passive narration is masterfully maintaining the strong (almost pungent) atmosphere in the background. It helps to remind me that someone speaking in formal tones usually means the plot is about to shank someone in a dark alley.

Speaking of the plot. It's . . . simply awesome. While the first book definitely had more flair to its plot, helped by its characters, I liked that this novel delved into a more serious, dark place. It seems to follow a murder mystery, but delves far deeper into the characters and setting than that. While I did like the direction it took from the first book in terms of plot . . . the main plot line of the book just seemed less refined and truly creepy than the last one. Don't worry though, you will still be terrified.

Bray's true talent seems to lie in balancing. Lair of Dreams's keeps its predecessor's mix of being deeply ingrained in the historical time-line, sneakily involved with the supernatural, hungry for suspense with the horror, yet light on its feet with the humor. On top of it all, Bray is able to analyse and break down the societal problems in the 20s: racism, ableism, poverty, and so on. I'm especially glad for the change in main characters, too, as it is far more intimate and subtle when it comes from Ling, the half-Chinese, half-Irish woman who must use leg braces and crutches to get around.

My only real fault with this book, and I can't believe I'm saying this, is that it's very long. Usually, I love that in a book, and I wish more books were this length. This nearly 700 page book is, like the first one, slow building, with myriad plot lines interwoven with each other. While that is a commitment I was totally willing to make . . . my reading style is more along the lines of "devour in one sitting." You can't do that to this book. There just isn't enough basic action going on, because the story is far more involved than that. Trust me. I tried . . . and I ended up reading over a whole section from Henry that I immediately forgot.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty awesome sequel to a book that seems impossible to follow up, and I think fans of the first will really enjoy it.

- Marlon

Do you like historical fiction?
Let us know in the comments!

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