Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 5033
Memorable and unique paranormal mystery
(Updated: June 11, 2013)
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
This book is, well…it’s different. Different in many, many good ways, but different in some bad ways as well. Libba Bray, as I well know from my experience with A Great and Terrible Beauty and its sequels, is a wonderful writer who can truly create a haunting, gothic atmosphere in her stories; The Diviners did not disappoint me in regards to quality of prose and creepy factor. Characters, additionally, were well-drawn. Most of my complaints arise from the way Bray chose to wrap up her story, and, unfortunately, that conclusion will leave an aftertaste that lingers long beyond the wonderful aspects that made up the majority of the book. It’s a shame how that tends to happen, really.

At its core, The Diviners is a paranormal mystery novel. There’s a ghost murdering people as part of a ritual meant to create the Antichrist. The large cast of characters is, in various ways, attempting to stop this ghostly murderer before the world goes to hell—literally. I like this story; I like it a lot. Bray’s attention to detail was flawless, the bastardized Biblical elements were creepy and worked wonderfully in the text, and the path to unraveling the secrets surrounding the ghost was incorporated very well.

Alongside the mystery, the novel’s historical setting was done well. The glamour and frenzy of New York in 1926 was presented with depth, and genuine attention to detail. I’ve long admired Libba Bray’s ability to write historical fiction with a paranormal twist, and I think she handled it just as well in The Diviners as she did in her Gemma Doyle trilogy.

Obviously, this book is a long one, and perhaps unjustifiably so. When I complain that a book is too long, it’s usually because I feel like the author is dragging things out, adding unnecessary side-trips, or just meandering in general. I don’t think that’s the case with this book. Rather, the main reason The Diviners is so long is because there are so many main characters Bray was juggling. There were at least 10 “main” characters, and then probably 10 more secondary characters we got to experience once or twice as the narrative unfolded. Technically speaking, this book is narrated in third person omniscient, but in my opinion it wasn’t done well, and was sloppy in places (omniscient perspective, I’ve found, is rarely done well). Anyway. In my opinion, while the different characters were interesting and for the most part well-rounded, the story itself would have benefitted better if Bray had stuck to one or two POV characters, thus tightening up the mystery, adding to the suspense, and lessening the list of people the reader needs to keep track of. All in my unprofessional opinion.

What really upset me about this, however, was the plot’s conclusion and the lead-in to the sequel. Basically, the ghost gets caught and eliminated. Problem solved. With about thirty pages left, I couldn’t see how there was going to be a second installment—there was no lingering conflict or investment in the story, as the characters were all in a good place. So then Bray throws in this mysterious “thing” that’s supposed to intrigue the reader into buying book 2. It was rushed, it was hurried, and it felt completely out of place. Unless this series is going to become an episodic paranormal mystery type-deal (like Nancy Drew with spirits), I don’t think this was a good move. At all. Structurally speaking, it was just a mess. Either the mystery in The Diviners could have been refitted to arch across several novels, or there should have been no sequel (the book is long enough, and with a few tweaks it could work quite well as a standalone). I was not at all a fan of Bray’s rushed hook into the next book. It felt very weak and was poorly developed.

Oh, and cyborgs. What was that all about, huh? Please explain how cyborgs fit in with the rest of it? Very displeased with that little sideplot.

So. The unfortunate fact of it all is that when an ending disappoints you, it tends to sour the entire reading experience, even if the majority of the book was excellent. That’s pretty much the case here. I liked The Diviners a lot, and was really impressed with the story, the characters, and Bray’s atmospheric prose. The questionable plot construction made me really unhappy, however. In the end, I definitely recommend this book, and I’ll probably stick around for book 2 (even though I have no idea what kind of storyline it can have aside from “ooh, we’re a bunch of teenagers with psychic abilities and also: cyborgs!”).
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