06 October 2012

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Do you believe there are ghosts and demons and Diviners among us?

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...
My first experience with Libba Bray's work left me skeptical that I would ever pick up something of her's again.  A Great and Terrible Beauty bored me.  I found it unenlightening with a picky, uninspiring main character and dull plot.  Southern Book Bloggers changed things.  I got a week to slave over the immensity that was The Diviners.  Chockfull of brilliance of every kind -- from amazing, deep prose to a chilling antagonist -- my experience with The Diviners restored my faith in Libba Bray.  I am psyched to find out what the rest of this series holds in store.

I can't help but compare my thoughts on A Great and Terrible Beauty to The Diviners.  Given that A Great and Terrible Beauty was published in 2003 and here it is, nearly ten years later, there was an incredible maturation on many levels.  This is evidenced mainly in the exponential increase in the page count of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series: A Great and Terrible Beauty (403 pages), Rebel Angels (548 pages), and The Sweet Far Thing (819 pages).  Now, The Diviners at 578 pages.  By the page count alone, Libba Bray certainly gained some polish from her work on A Great and Terrible Beauty.  

The Diviners was told in an elegant, haunting style that perfectly suited the plot.  Written in large swaths of detail and description, Libba Bray's prose was concise and easy to understand.  Five hundred plus pages might suggest that the story amounted to a whole lot of nothing, but every word carried meaning.  Occasionally, I thought that a scene was a bit out of place a time or two, like it was put there merely to better paint the backdrop of 1920's New York City.  It didn't much affect my overall opinion, however.  Paired with subtle humor and a keen eye for lively details, Libba Bray is a study in beautiful language.

Language became a bit of an issue for me during some parts of the plot.  While I was impressed and deeply appreciative of Libba Bray's immense knowledge of 1920's lingo, I thought sometimes it was a bit overused.  The excessive use drew me out of the story a time or two, like I was suffering from sensory overload.

Though The Diviners was told from multiple points of view, it centered on Evie.  Evie was a great main character.  She was inspiring because she had the ability to be unbelievably irritating at times with her selfishness, but the fact I found her irritating and likable says to me that underdevelopment or poor character-building wasn't to blame.  Rather that she was presented in such a human-like way that I could accept her, rough edges and all, because I could relate to her on some levels.  Still, there were moments that I just couldn't believe how selfish, self-centered, arrogant, mean and downright stupid she could be.  Those moments were backed up quite convincingly by Libba Bray, so I was left shaking my head and hoping she'd remember her mistakes, as if I were a friend admonishing her for her recklessness rather than a judgmental stranger.

Above all, The Diviners scared me half to death.  It's as if Libba Bray had personally snuck inside my head, withdrew all the tiny things that made my skin crawl, and fit them into words.  I learned, the hard way I'm afraid, why reading The Diviners before bed was a bad idea.  Coupled with the fact that I was sleeping on my grandmother's couch at the time, overall was not conducive to sleeping.  Especially since I was looking over my shoulder into the darkness every few seconds, to see if Naughty John was standing there, ready to start whistling while he chased me around the house.  Bray made a clever move by putting several of the murder scenes in the point of view of the victim.  It brought creepiness to a whole new level.

I'm excited for this new journey that the Diviners trilogy has in store.  I thoroughly enjoyed the characters that seasoned this haunting read -- Memphis, Theta, Sam, Jericho and Will -- and I anxiously await the continuation to their story.

Evie O'Neill pressed the sagging ice bag to her throbbing forehead and cursed the hour.  It was noon, but it might as well be six in the morning for the pounding in her skull.  For the past twenty minutes, her father had been beating his gums at her about last night's party at the Zenith Hotel.  Her drinking had been mentioned several times, along with the unfortunate frolic in the town fountain.  And the trouble that came between, of course.  It was gonna be a real beast of a day, and how.  Her head beat out requirements: Water. Aspirin.  Please stop talking.

"Your mother and I do not approve of drinking.  Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?"

"Prohibition?  I drink to its health whenever I can." (p. 10)
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 578
  • published - September 2012
  • publisher - Little, Brown
  • genre - urban fantasy
  • received via - 
    • ARC - Southern Book Bloggers
    • Personal, finished copy - Joseph Beth Booksellers
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Diviners
    • The Diviners