Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray (The Diviners #1)

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Sometimes, you have books on your TBR without quite knowing why, except perhaps a vague impression that someone, sometime might have said something good about it. Books for one day, maybe, but not soon. The Diviners was one of those – but I went for it and I’m glad I did.

She was tired of being told how it was by this generation, who’d botched things so badly. They’d sold their children a pack of lies: God and country. Love your parents. All is fair. And then they’d sent those boys, her brother, off to fight a great monster of a war that maimed and killed and destroyed whatever was inside them. Still they lied, expecting her to mouth the words and play along. Well, she wouldn’t.

Evie can read people’s memories from objects. After uncovering the sordid secret of a boy from her hometown in Ohio, she is exiled to New York City to live with her uncle. It’s the 1920s and she’s determined to enjoy her time in a bigger city to the fullest. Then mysterious occult murders start popping up. Her POV is mostly intertwined with those of Memphis, a numbers runner from Harlem who dreams of being a poet, and Theta, a dancer with a complicated past.

 The worldbuilding is exquisite. It’s set in the 1920s and incredibly atmospheric, helped by the use of slang from the era and descriptive passages between various POVs that show the city from a birds-eye view. The speakeasies, the theatre, everything seems close enough to touch and it doesn’t shy away from the uglier sides of the 1920s like the racism either. It’s all very smooth and easily the best aspect of the book. The horror undertones are also great – it’s a perfect book for the season.

I also liked pretty much all of the characters. The lively party girl flapper Evie was my favourite, because I can’t remember the last time I got to see a female character like her, colourful and extroverted and too much and just a little bit amoral. But I liked most everyone else too – her quieter friend Mabel, the uncle, Memphis, Theta. The only one I disliked was Jericho. So sour and unpleasant and bland.

The only thing I had any real issues with was the pacing. It was so slow and the book so long that I started to struggle in the middle. I don’t have that kind of stamina anymore. I didn’t like Evie’s romance subplot either, it came completely out of nowhere and lacked any sort of chemistry, but it might (hopefully!) take another direction in the next books.

The fact that the next book is even longer doesn’t exactly inspire me to continue very soon – I need breaks between long books – but one day, I will.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: anyone looking for a spooky autumn read, fans of urban fantasy, those who’d like the idea of 1920s New York as a setting
Not recommended to: those easily annoyed by slang, also see content warnings

Content warnings: detailed flashback scene involving rape and abuse

2 thoughts on “Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray (The Diviners #1)”

  1. I really enjoyed this too and the second one is longer, but it’s so good! I think the story gets better with each book.
    I agree about the romance subplot. I don’t think it was needed, but I like that it doesn’t overpower the story.

    Liked by 2 people

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