Audie Award Nominee, Best Teens Category, 2013
Something dark and evil has awakened....
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 her uncle will 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 is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened....
This audiobook includes an introduction read by Libba Bray.
©2012 Libba Bray (P)2012 Listening Library
On The Diviners:
(Summary below - Please heed trigger warnings listed after **.)
This books ranks only very mildly above average. The plot is unique, well-researched and the setting is carefully constructed, but it all falls short on the delivery, hashing all of its potential. Nothing happening within the book is even remotely scary, which is the intent, making the murder and satanic ritual scenes lack-luster in their effect. There's a fair bit of gore and adult themes, so be warned that the book is not for younger readers.
**Trigger warnings: Rape, domestic violence, alcoholism, child abuse/neglect/abandonment, death, war, detailed murder, mild racism (mentioned more for setting rather than as acts within the novel, though it is glossed over), religious fanaticism, religious persecution, branding, human and animal gore, and animal death. Many of these are described in purposeful detail, often as plot devices.
The characters are very, very slow to develop, and the main character, Evangeline (Evie) O'Neil, is one of the most blatant Mary-Sue's I've ever read in a published work. She's very self-centered, disloyal, gullible, attention-seeking and adrenaline-seeking. She harbours a clear alcohol problem, and the first dozen and a half chapters of the book make repeated mentions of how beautiful she is, turning heads and stopping people in their tracks in nearly every human interaction she has, verbal or not. Evie knows this and uses it to her advantage far too often to be enjoyable to read. I can understand "beautiful", but this was to the extreme. When we first meet Jericho and he is unphased by her looks, it was painfully clear right from that point who Evie's love interest would eventually become. This was also a huge disappointment; very predictable, thus not endearing in the least.
The colloquialisms of the era saturates the book, often making the dialogue sloppy (and very annoying, especially when Evie is speaking). It was used way to heavy-handedly. Easing up on Evie's use of the 20's slang may have redeemed her just slightly, in my opinion. I found it endearing at first, but it quickly became a grating point by chapter 50-some.
Evie is unrelated in nearly every way, despite Bray's attempts to make her feel genuine. She is created at the extreme end of all of her character traits, and every time we glimpse her internal emotional dialogue and grow some semblance of attachment to her, she saunters off and does something ridiculous that immediately ruins any possible development. When you find out she's only 17, she becomes the epitome of foreign. I work with teenagers and personally adore this age group, but Evie was frustrating to be with at every point of the book.
The plot is a great idea. What I'm about to say pains me, because I ordered this audiobook because I loved Bray's "Great and Terrible Beauty" series when I read it a number of years ago. I was really excited to read/hear this and get another dose of her wild and weird imagination. In this book, we get a real taste of that - Bray is brilliant at crafting unique and daring plots, thick with knots of the unexpected. In The Diviners, we get a huge helping of that talent. Bray clearly put a lot of deep thought and effort into the idea of the story, the setting, the mood, and the details of the supernatural. What ruined it was the delivery of that plot, on the wings of a sub-par main character and a cast of too often neglected secondaries. What Bray built was a genuinely brilliant idea; sadly, I wish it had been written by someone else.
In my completely unneeded opinion, if Evie had been in her late 20's as opposed to her late teens, I believe the story would have been improved greatly. An older character, with a less harsh personality that's softened by age and maturity (something Evie DESPERATELY needs), I truly believe the story would have had more solidity and depth. Deep characters, deep plot; these ideals follow suit. Sadly for The Diviners, Bray's shallow character breeds a disappointingly shallow plot.
By the end of the book, I found I was a mixture of mildly surprised, confused, frustrated and disappointed; many more negative emotions than positive ones. It was very clear that the abandoned house presented early on in the story would be the catalyst location for the climax, and it was frustrating to have the characters dance around this concept for over 100 chapters. By the end, every bit of research and detail Will, Sam, Evie and Jericho put into the background story of Naughty John became totally moot when Evie walked right into a trap readers could see coming from very, very early on, and used only one piece of randomly acquired knowledge to destroy him. She even tries to have a conversation with this devil-reincarnate as she's trying to destroy him! Jericho's presence at the climax was pointless, and nothing of the work anyone had done leading up to Solomon's Comet arriving had any effect on how Naughty John was defeated. In the end, it was all about Evie. Typical.
None of the characters had any real development, safe for some of them discovering each other's "powers", or each other. Theta and Henry have a sweet, squishy story that I would have loved to hear more about, especially when she meets Memphis, but all of their storylines end abruptly just before and just after the climax. Sam hardly developed at all, despite seeming to have the most complex backstory of all the characters and being the second main character we're introduced to when Evie arrives in Manhattan. He eventually gets demoted to secondary character when Jericho gets pushed into the picture. Mabel forgives Evie for being a horrible friend, which infuriated the hell out of me, since that would have been the best opportunity Evie was presented with to do some real personal development. But of course, Evie does something sweet, bats her eyelashes and Mabel swoons back into her arms. Will and Jericho have a great setting and storyline going when Evie suddenly arrives and disrupts the whole thing. Both of them seem to have complex stories that we don't get to see until the book is basically over, with only a glaze-over. On a similar note, Evie calls Will, "Unc" incessantly, even when she's whining, which becomes incredibly infuriating and annoying very, very quickly.
I finished the book and waited a few days for it to settle with me while I gathered by thoughts and feelings, deciding if I wanted to purchase Book 2 and continue the saga. Despite wanting to learn more about some of the characters, the book was forgettable after only a few days, and I found my interest waned significantly. The cliffhanger for Book 2 describes the new villain in very little detail about him specifically, hardly interesting at all, but uses very vivid detail to describe him disemboweling a wild rabbit that's far from frightening and is just distasteful; this is coming from someone who eats dinner while watching people get eaten in zombie shows. The whole chapter uses Bray's penchant for setting description while pulling vague lines from "Home, Home on the Range." I haven't decided yet if I enjoyed it or not. Either way, the old woman disemboweling her own housecat was distasteful enough to make me glad the book ended shortly afterwards.
Overall, the feeling left in my brain and the taste left in my mouth is forlorn disappointment. I truly do wish I could have liked this book - I really wanted to - but it just wasn't written well enough to be redeemable. I won't be reading the second installment.
TL;DR: The book is lack-luster, despite having a very interesting concept. The main character is annoying and unrelated in age, emotional maturity and personality. The whole story leads up to a climax that could have been reached without needing over one hundred chapters of apparently pointless research, and the secondary characters don't get the screen time they deserve. Despite liking Bray's previous works, and her extensive work in creating a vivid and interesting setting and plot for this book, the potential of that plot is ruined by a poorly developed main character. This book is not for everyone. I respect and can somewhat understand why some people like it, but I expect much more depth from my main characters (or any depth at all, really...). Definitely passable, even if you're a fan of Bray's work. Wouldn't recommend, Definitely not for young adults. Please heed trigger warnings listed above - they are plentiful and poignant.
On January LaVoy:
The narration, however, is superb, especially when one considered the vast cast of characters January LaVoy was required to represent. With nearly a dozen repeat characters, many of them male, LaVoy's voice is clear, precise, well-paced and distinct to each and every character. It becomes apparent very quickly whose PoV the chapter is in based on the voice she uses when narrating the opening lines. Within a very small span of time, the voices are believable and comfortable to hear.
The only exception to this is Naughty John, who is meant to have a booming and echoing voice in many of his scenes, as he's summoning his voice and physical being from a wicked, spiritual plane. This leaves LaVoy with the only option to speak loudly in her deepest baratone, which doesn't quite match up to the visuals, creating a weird effect. You can still very much appreciate the work and effort she puts into making Naughty John seem ominous and frightening, though. The book would have benefited from a little echoing added to those moments, to really hit the point.
My only critique of the narration: January LaVoy, despite having a very beautiful voice, doesn't have a voice that lends well to acapella singing, especially when she's singing directly into your ears. These moments would have benefited greatly from even just a small bit of music added to the near dozen moments when she's required to sing. I imagine she has a very beautiful singing voice; it's just a bit straining when heard so clearly and blatantly at close range without instrumental accompaniment. It's not bad by any means; not even close. Just... not musical enough on its own.
TL;DR: Great narration. January LaVoy does a superb job at creating distinct voices for each character, which is amazing, considering there are well over a dozen different repeat characters, many of them male. Her voice is clear and very enjoyable to listen to; an excellent narrator.
The story took awhile to get interesting but moved pretty fast once it did. I felt the flapper slang detracted quite a bit from the story. We get it, it's set in the 20's. With so much emphasis on setting the feel of the era, it was irksome that Evie kept casually slipping $20 into her pocket, which would be worth about $250 in today's currency. $5 drinks were mentioned at one point, which would equate to $62. A minor quibble-ski to be sure; I may just be cranky after having to hear the word "positootley" a million times.
First star down: As good as this story is I couldn't stomach the multiple animal sacrifices in this book. If you have an issue with things like this, don't read it. I personally wish stories would have that as a warning label. So there you go.
Second star down: It felt like some plot lines could have been saved for another book. They just didn't feel like they contributed much to the story and made the book long winded.
This is where 2 sacrifices happened. Revolting. The animal cruelty could have been left out and the book would have been better.
Basically anyone in Memphis’ storyline, including Theta.
Yes, but take into account what I said about how the book could improve.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes gory horror stories.
I wasn't 100% aware this was a young adult book, I was just looking for a novel taking place in America during the prohibition. While I enjoyed the mystery, it seemed really young to me and the ending wasn't everything I hoped it would lead up to, leaving me fairly disappointed. Since it appears to be a series, hopefully what I was waiting for will happen in later books.
I haven't read Libba Bray since I was in High School, and I had forgotten how absolutely marvelous her novels could be.
While I did find Evie's vernacular annoying and over-the-top in the beginning, after an adjustment period, I saw it like the 1920s version of a hipster/valley-girl.
Evie is the type of heroine everyone loves to hate: selfish, vain, insecure, and full of herself. She lives life in a bubble, not forced to see outside her paradigm. She has some minor character-development, but no real progress in that area.
Thank god, then, that Evie's not the only character the narrative follows, but for the sake of omitting spoilers, let's just say that the other characters are both memorable and enjoyable.
Bray's prose, as always is wonderfully picturesque, and I particularly enjoyed The Diviners as an audiobook through Audible.com, because of both the narrator, January LaVoy, and the music incorporated into the production. Ms. LaVoy's voicing of the various billboard/radio ads from the time set her narration apart, I felt like I was playing Bioshock, or watching an episode of Boardwalk Empire. It was that good.
I also enjoyed the length of the book. I typically read quickly, meaning I no sooner start a novel than finish it. The length of The Diviners was not so long that it dragged out a predictable storyline, but not so short that it was over-in-a-flash, making me feel so... "why did I spend more than $6 on this?"
Great book, just started the second one... 5 stars.
Very well researched, but she seems to enjoy inserting her research rather than expanding the story. I had a hard time focusing on the story, and it takes a lot to distract me when I'm reading.
No problem with the narrator, I just don't think the book was very good, and I probably didn't enjoy her performance because the material colored my opinion.
If you enjoy history (I was a history major in college) and love period pieces (which I do) you won't enjoy this as much as you think you will. Sadly. The book didn't immerse me in storyworld--I wanted to be there, but I just couldn't get inside her world.
The story is captivating and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I love the characterization and layered personas, I adore the era it takes place in (1920s) and add the paranormal aspect to all of it -- it's a total winner!
Evie's arrival to 1920's NYC will never fail to amuse me. I adored pretty much everything about this book, so there are a lot of memorable moments.
Absolutely EVERYTHING? I hadn't read a book narrated by her before this one, but it sure won't be my last! She sang, made wonderful intonations, knew her accents well and gave every character their own voice which is a hard task seeing as there are A LOT of POVs and a lot of characters. It was simply magnificent! Hello to my new favorite narrator <3
Hmmmmm, yes? There are vulnerable moments for every character, but the ones that moved me the most were between Memphis & his little brother and Theta & Henry. Those relationships hit me something fierce.
If you doubt that audiobooks could be your thing, PICK THIS BOOK UP! You will rarely find a book that well produced and narrated. It was an amazing experience and I am 10/10 sure that I would not have enjoyed this book AS much if I hadn't read it on audio. It's by far my favorite audiobook and I will continue to recommend it time and time again.
The story line dragged on. It could have been tighter. There was nothing scary. The "evil" was a conglomeration of horror stereotypes. The main character was annoying and very adolescent. Again it may be better for teenage audiences.
Don't ever let this narrator sing again
YES!! I have recommended this book to several people. I loved the time period, the language, the characters, the story.
She is amazing with character voices. She nails the voices and characters.
This is a fun book with character depth. The characters are fun and heartwarming and silly. the time period is perfect for this book and I loved all the lingo. This was a really good book I would listen to twice.
The Bee's Knees
This story has the modern world mixing with the spiritual. It was a wild mystery that had me thrilled.
She has the 20's slang down. She also does great accents.
Extreme? I LOVED this title. It had me even slightly scared at points.
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