The Diviners by Libba Bray Review: 1920’s New York with the Occult

April 16, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

The Diviners by Libba Bray Review: 1920’s New York with the OccultThe Diviners by Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners #1
Published by Allen & Unwin on July 2014
Source: Won
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository
Add to Goodreads

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 unfurl 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....
Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray opens a brand-new historical series with The Diviners, where the glittering surface of the Roaring Twenties hides a mystical horror creeping across the country.

Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series is one of my favourites, for its vivid blend of Victorian noir, historical fiction, and fantasy. The Diviners swept me away in a world of modern beauty, set in 1920’s New York full of speakeasies, flapper girls, and the occult. From the buildings, places, fashion and pastime activities, to the speech of young New Yorkers, the true glory of the book is within its finer detail. Libba Bray has a knack for describing things to the very last detail, and I could accurately picture this world in my head, seeing it come alive in all of its hustle and bustle.

At over 600 pages, The Diviners is a long book and I’d say a big chunk of the book is lost in its’ length. Evie is a young flapper girl new to New York and it’s offerings, and she gets swept up in party life, gossip and dances, as well as stumbling upon the city’s murder mystery which seems to be based on the occult. As interesting as the mystery is, it isn’t a major plot point and is pushed to the side as Evie goes about her partying and initiation as a society girl, resulting in the book moving at an agonising pace.

Evie herself was boisterous and lively, a real go-getter and party girl. Her flaw was how self-obsessed she could be and how whiny she could be at times. She does epitomise the time period as a true flapper girl, and I’ve certainly encountered heroines far worse than Evie. Luckily there wasn’t much of a romance in The Diviners, there were hints at a love triangle here and there but nothing taken too seriously. I’d be curious to see where it goes in the next book. The side characters are truly varied with their own personalities, but there were so many of them I actually had trouble remembering who some of them were when they were mentioned.

“But what was the point of living so quietly you made no noise at all?” – Evie

The Diviners featured a haunting atmosphere with its creepy, supernatural elements: a spooky house, horrible mutilated bodies, a vengeful ghost and superstitions well integrated into the rest of the book. The highlight of the book for me was the concept of The Diviners, people born into the world who have supernatural powers, such as divination, healing and psychometry. It kind of reminded me of the show Heroes, and with just as many loose ends in this respect.

Speakeasy language is used heavily throughout the book. I’ve never actually encountered that sort of language before, so I found it pos-i-tute-ly difficult to picture and never really got used to it.

The Diviners swept me away in a vivid and beguiling world accurately depicting 1920’s New York meshing with supernatural elements. I’m impressed by the amount of history and research that Libba Bray has put into it and it definitely paid off in the detail. Both the strength and downside of the novel is that it’s very long and slow in pacing. If you prefer experiential reads over fast-paced action based plots, The Diviners will transport you to a different place if you slow down and enjoy the experience. It leans towards more of an adult than YA read for the language, detail and amount depth there is, but both types of readers would be able to enjoy it. Overall, it was a journey worth having and I look forward to the next book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The following two tabs change content below.
Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

Tags: , , , ,

52 responses to “The Diviners by Libba Bray Review: 1920’s New York with the Occult

  1. Yay! I'm glad you enjoyed this! It was one if my favourite reads the year it came out. I'm usually terrible with "scary" books, but this one totally just sucked me in haha. The speak easy lingo can be a bit confusing if you're not use to it, but hopefully the next book will flow nicer for you 😉

    Great review Jeann!
    Cyn @ Bookmunchies recently posted…Review: The Taking by Kimberly DertingMy Profile

  2. I'm so glad to see you enjoyed this one–and to see that the Gemma Doyle series is one of your favorites too. I'm a little nervous about reading this one. The length and pace is a bit daunting because I ended up DNFing Going Bovine not just once, but twice due to how slow it was moving for me (which is weird, considering it was supposed to be a funny book). As long as the rest of the book is interesting, I think I could enjoy the book as much as you did.
    Kaitlin recently posted…The Here and Now VS. The TakingMy Profile

  3. Last year at the Sydney Writers Festival I purchased and got this book signed when I met Libba, who was totally awesome. But it's almost been a year and all it's been doing is collecting dust on my bookshelf, sitting there unread. It's just so intimidating because I'm not much of a historical fiction kinda girl and I would find the speakeasy language confusing, not to mention 600 pages of it. I think that length would rattle anyone's brain. But I'll definitely read it one day when I'm ready to step outside of the comfort zone. So glad you enjoyed it Jeann. Great Review 🙂
    Sunny @ A Sunny Spot recently posted…REVIEW: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaMy Profile

  4. I've had this book forever. Not even kidding. I am waiting for summer to come so I can FINALLY dive in and I am kind of really excited now.

    The 1920's is one of my favorite time periods so that's one of the reasons I even got the book in the first place (plus it had a gorgeous cover).

    I am slightly worried about the main character and how I'll get along with her but hey, the setting will probably more than make up for it.

    Lovely review, Jeann!! 🙂
    Rashika recently posted…ARC Review: Tease by Amanda MacielMy Profile

  5. "Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series is one of my favourites" Yes, yes, yes! Everything about it sounds amazing except for the pacing :/ What was it… The Sweet Far Thing that had ~800 pages right? That wasn't too bad so I hope this one is similar to that. The flapper era is so fun and I'm glad to know that it is really detailed and descriptive 😀 Glad you liked it!
    Alise recently posted…Review: Maybe One Day by Melissa KantorMy Profile

  6. I had this one my shelf for AGES and I haven't got a chance to get around to it. I did try and pick it up once but It just didn't work for me and I'm usually a picky reader depending on my mood so I think I have to be in the mood for a mix of historical and fantasy. But lovely review all the same, Jeann! 🙂
    Emma @ Never Judge a recently posted…REVIEW – STORM by Brigid KemmererMy Profile

  7. Oh I see you're reading Disruption! I hope you enjoy it, I met the author today and she was very sweet 🙂

    anyway, its awesome that you enjoyed this! I found it a little hard to get into personally, but other than that, it was pretty darn awesome! I loved the atmosphere that the author managed to create here.

    Brilliant review, girly! <33
    Melanie (YA Midnight recently posted…Review: Evertrue by Brodi AshtonMy Profile

  8. I've only ever heard good things about this one and while I am intrigued in the synopsis of it I have to admit something about the book intimidates me. Maybe it's the length (I seem t call it being VERY long but i could be wrong…) or the plot just seeming out of my comfort zone or the time setting i don't know but it's definetly something! Either way lovely review Jeann! Hopefully one day i can get around to reading this one myself!

    Lily @ Lilysbookblog
    Lily recently posted…Mud Vein:ReviewMy Profile

  9. I'm terrified of ghosts in real life but I love torturing myself with ghost stories. Yup I'm a masochist. This sounds perfect! I don't want simple apparitions in my paranormal reads, I want blood and gore and this sounds like it has a good amount of that. PERFECT!
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Unfixable by Tessa Bailey + GiveawayMy Profile

  10. I have been very intrigued about this book, but the lenght really gave me pause… I started it and didn't really capture my attention so I decided to push it aside and return to it at a different time. Your review has given me enough reasons to try it again at some point (soon-ish) and get through the more slow paced parts.

    Great review, Jeann!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #38!!My Profile

  11. I love the 20s so it seems like the perfect setting for me. Sorry the book was a little slow for you. Hmm, I wonder if I’d enjoy the slight romance since you mentioned a (light) love triangle. Not a big fan of those even if light. Anyhow, I’m glad you enjoyed this one, I hope I can give it a try soon.

  12. YAY! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Jeann! I was daunted by the size of it for so long, but I have to say that I just loved how vivid and atmospheric this novel really was! Great review 🙂

  13. Great review Jeann! I remember reading this book last year and I absolutely LOVED IT. Granted, it was a pretty big book to get through, but since I'm a big fan of anything historical (especially set in the 1920's) and it had that supernatural twist, it really appealed to me. I've started Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series and after reading this review I think it's time I got back to it!
    Eugenia @ Chasm of B recently posted…Review: Maybe SomedayMy Profile

  14. I love your review, Jeann! I've been hesistant to buy this book because it's so thick (and I don't like its new cover x_x), but it sounds a really good book. I'm glad the love triangle isn't overwhelming! I love 1920 era, I might want to try this one.

  15. At the end of last year I won a prize pack of 20 books from Allen and Unwin (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). This was one of them. I haven't read it yet but I've heard only good things about it. It's definitely different to books I usually read, and since I'm getting a bit over contemporary, this might be a nice change!
    Emily @ The Loony Te recently posted…Loony’s Musings: the end of a seriesMy Profile