Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Series: The Diviners

Rating: 5 stars

Review:

It was only meant to be a harmless brag, a little showing off at a party after she had a few drinks too many. But when Evie O’Neill proves to everyone that she has a psychic power – the ability to see a person’s memories by holding an object of theirs – she lands in one hell of a mess. Accidentally accusing the son of a wealthy and powerful family of knocking up a maid means Evie better skip town for a while, until the heat dies down. She is thrilled when her parents suggests that she stay with her uncle Will in fabulous New York City, and just knows that this will be her chance to find her way to stardom. Even if it does mean working at Will’s freaky museum, dedicated to the Supernatural and the Occult.

But a string of ritualistic murders leaves the city in terror, the police ask Will to help and Evie is determined to tag along. With her and Jericho – Will’s quiet but strong assistant – to help, Evie knows that not only will they stop the killer, but that she is sure to end up on the front page. That’s if she can stay alive first…

I will confess that I haven’t read many fantasy or Young Adult books set in the 1920’s (in fact, none others come to mind), but after finishing The Diviners this is something I strive to change, in the hopes that they are as good as Libba Bray’s wonderful book. The Diviners is a somewhat deceptive book, in that it starts in a fairly mild manner: the focus is on Evie and her hopes and dreams as she moves to New York. We are shown the paranormal talent that Evie possesses in being able to read a person’s history from a beloved item as way of explanation as to what trouble she caused that ended up with her having to hide out in New York until things calmed down at home, but this is almost forgotten about in nearly the first half of the book. Never fear though, for instead we are treaded to the gilts and glamour of the Big Apple. The level of descriptions and detail in this book is amazing – clearly there has been a lot of research put into it – and I believe it all pays off big time. As the story progresses tension grows as a serial killer attacks taking pieces of his victims and leaving behind pieces of scriptures about ‘offerings’, the whole book becoming decidedly creepier and brilliantly scary. We also get glimpses of other people with talents similar to Evie’s, teasing hints of bigger things out there in the world of this story, which sadly won’t be further explored until the rest of the series.

The other great thing about The Diviners is the number of varied and complex character there are. No-one is 2D in this story, and some you might at first dismiss as ‘shallow’ or ‘ignorant’ but when you learn about their past, you see them in a whole new life, and can’t help but love them. One of the most moving back stories for me was that of Thata, who may seem a stereotypical flapper at first but who has a past so dark it’s like a punch to the gut to read (but then again, some of the best writing is like that). I also loved the budding romance between her and Memphis, which was just plain sweet. It is also a great example of a romance that has instant attraction and chemistry but is definitely not the dreaded intsa-love. Instead, it’s a slow but powerful burn that just makes you happy for both characters. Evie herself is testament to Libba Bray’s excellent writing. She starts off as a bit of a brat: she got into a lot of trouble by getting very drunk and showing of her special talent, but clearly hasn’t learnt her lesson as she continues to drink, and is always dying to be the centre of attention. But as we read, Evie grows, slowly but surely. We see her naivety as she is pick-pocketed virtually the moment she steps of the train into New York. We she her brave spirit as she confronts the thief a few days later. We see her kindness and love for her friends and her uncle as she adjusts to life in the city, helping to get her uncle’s museum more business (albeit in her own misguided way), tries to break her best friend Mabel out of her shell and out of her mother’s shadow, and adopts Thata into their friendship straight away. Evie reviles herself to be a much more complex character, and although we don’t get a full backstory from her, the pieces we see are just as heart-wrentching as all the others, and her need to be in the spotlight (her need to be loved) becomes clear. She is definitely a character that grows on you, without changing who she is.

My only (very minor) criticism of this book is that the narration has a tendency to jump from character to character within the same scene, sometimes even within the same paragraph. This can make it hard to keep track of who’s POV we are following. In particular it made Thata and Memphis’ first meeting a little confusing as the text refers to Thata by name but it’s only at the end of the scene Memphis actually learns her name.

Bottom line, I loved this book. And so begins the long arduous wait for the sequel.

5 stars.

Book Review: Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire

10184403Title: Chimes at Midnight

Author: Seanan McGuire

Series: October Daye #7

Rating: 5 stars

Review:

Toby knows first hand how hard life for changelings is, living under the rule of pure blooded faeries. Filled with contempt for the changelings, the rest of Faerie couldn’t care less about their welfare – not even when changelings start dying. A drug known as Goblin Fruit has flooded the streets of San Francisco, and is leaving a trail of bodies behind. Addictive from only one bite, Toby knows that if she doesn’t stop it, no-one will. So it looks like, once again, it’s all down to Toby. If it wasn’t for her friends, and boyfriend Tybalt, she’d probably go crazy.

But Toby needs the support of her friends more than ever when The Queen of the Mist suddenly banishes her from the kingdom, leaving Toby with only three days to arrange her affairs. But of course, for Toby things can always – and will always – get worse. In the middle of trying to save her skin, Toby is attacked and forced to ingest Goblin Fruit. Now she running out the clock from both the hatred of the Queen and her painful, and quite frankly, unfair addiction. And the more Toby and her friends uncover, the more it seems that the Queen is not actually legitimate after all.

The October Daye series is prime example of brilliant urban fantasy, and are some of my all time favourites. I’m a huge lover of faerie books, and truly believe that this series is has the best faeries, and some of the best characters in general. The level of research into folktales and legends is impressive and it really shows: there are many different types of fey featured in each book, each with their own unique origins, traditions, and quirks. In every book a new area of fey lore is introduced which is not only great for readers like me who already have an interest but it is written seamlessly into the narrative, avoiding info dumping or becoming boring.

The characters are one of the best part of this series, and they continue to go from strength to strength in each book. They each could stand on their own, and I would personally love to see spin off stories for all of them. My favourites are Toby, Tybalt, and the Luidaeg, but I love how all Toby’s friends band together to help her – they make an awesome team. It’s also refreshing to have a main character who’s not convince she must do it all alone, and is not afraid to ask for help. Toby’s romance with Tybalt is blossoming into something really moving. As an added bonus there is also a fair amount of humour and friendly banter, which has made me laugh several times.

Chimes at Midnight is a game changer in terms of plot, with secrets and relations reviled. I can’t imagine where the story will go next, but I can’t wait to find out.

5 stars.

Series Review: The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo

Welcome to a special series review, where I review all the books in a series I love in one go. This week’s series is the amazing Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo; a Russian inspired world where one girl discovers she is the Sun Summoner, gifted with the power of light, and must fight against the darkness spreading over the land, and the man who can control it.

First up is The Witch of Duva a folk tale based in the same world as The Grisha Series.

13643163Title: The Witch of Duva

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha #0.5 (short story)

Rating: 5 stars

Review:

Once, long ago, it was believed that the woods near Duva ate young girls, and that a witch lived deep in the depths of the forest. Nayda, like all the other girls in their starving village, knows not to venture too far alone, for girls have disappeared, said to have been lured by the intoxicating smell of food. Nayda finds it hard to ignore the wood when her brother Havel has leave to join the army and her father has married Karina, who seems to hate her unreservedly. Soon, Nayda worries that Karina may actually be a khitka: a bloodthirsty forest spirit that can take any shape, especially that of a beautiful woman.

To sum this short story up in one word would be: charming. It is written in the perfect fairy-tale style, omnipresent third person, with beautiful detail to the world. The hunger of the starving villagers is captured in a way that is painfully realistic and make the read huger in sympathy, and Nayda’s fears and loneliness is evident throughout the story.

The best part of this story, however, is that even though it starts as a typical fairy-tale, it actually challenges the troupes often used within these tales – the evil stepmother, the unloved and ignored child, the women who use magic always being witches – and turns them on their head. Traditional fairy-tales have a habit of using two-dimensional characters and categorising women as either the sweet, naive virgin, or the evil, seductive, or bitter villain. Leigh Bardugo uses these troupes only to then twist them around and rip them apart at the end, in a way that makes you see the whole story in a new light and question who is really the villain and try to see the hidden motives of the characters. Even with this though, there is no true villain: no one person who is pure evil through and through. This brings a realistic light to a genre that created many stereotypes, and make Leigh Bardugo an author to watch.

5 stars.

Kindle Daily Deal: The City’s Son

Today I urge everyone to visit Amazon UK’s Kindle Daily Deal page and buy a copy of The City’s Son by Tom Pollock, an awesome urban fantasy where the city of London comes to life and the Gods of old and new technology battle for power. Today only it’s £0.99. Who can say no to that?

(What is Kindle Daily Deal? It’s a brilliant offer where for one day only selected books are up to 90% off, with new books added all the time.)

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Description:

Hidden under the surface of everyday London is a city of monsters and miracles, where wild train spirits stampede over the tracks and glass-skineed dancers with glowing veins light the streets.

When a devastating betrayal drives her from her home, graffiti artist Beth Bradley stumbles into the secret city, where she finds Filius Viae, London’s ragged crown prince, just when he needs someone most. An ancient enemy has returned to the darkness under St Paul’s Cathedral, bent on reigniting a centuries-old war, and Beth and Fil find themselves in a desperate race through a bizarre urban wonderland, searching for a way to save the city they both love.

The City’s Son is the first book of The Skyscraper Throne: a story about family, friends and monsters, and how you can’t always tell which is which.

Book Review: The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

the cloud roads Title: The Cloud Roads

Author: Martha Wells

Series: The Books of the Raksura #1

Rating: 5 stars

Cover Comments: Isn’t it beautiful? I love the detail, and found it helped when it came to picturing the Rasksuran race.

Review:

After hiding in his human form and constantly travelling between different races of humans, Moon is finally caught out. Having been spotted transforming, Moon is discovered for what he really is: a creature who can shape shift from human to a being with black scales, wings, claws, and a tail. The group of superstitious humans he has been living with mistake him for a demon race known as the Fell. Poisoned, tied to a post in the middle of the forest and left to die, Moon is rescued by a stranger, named Stone, who turns out to be a shifter like him – not a Fell, but a Raksura, the people he has been searching for his whole life. But when Stone takes Moon back to his court, it’s not the happy homecoming Moon has always hoped for. Tensions rise at his arrival between two Queens, the ruling Queen Pearl and her sister Jade, while other court members are trying to discover why all their new born children seem to be dying, and what is causing the court to sicken. Moon must help strengthen his new home and defend his people from a Fell invasion.

Books like The Cloud Roads remind me of why I love fantasy. The world building and detail that are included are simply beautiful, and after reading it I still want to know more about the many different races of creatures mentioned. The way the world was presented was both skillfully done and revealed slowly in an almost frustrating way. Martha Wells teases her readers with glimpses of one race/culture that you can’t help but want to know more of, only to then show you another, equally as fascinating. I hope for many more books in this series, just to see every part of the Three Worlds – sea, land, and sky. One of my favourite parts was the flying islands, but I would also love to see more of the sea creatures, as this was only briefly touched upon in book one.

As for the story itself, I liked Moon from the beginning and loved Stone. In fact, my only complaint with this book was that Stone wasn’t featured as much as I would have liked. There wasn’t one character I disliked, and found them all to be detailed and three-dimensional. Even the arrogant, slightly unstable Queen Pearl had an understandable motive for her actions. I enjoyed the growth of Moon, as this is a coming-of-age story, though a more mature one that usual, as the protagonist is about 30 instead of an adolescent. This creates an interesting mix, as Moon is learning who he is, but in some ways he already knows. The other members of the Rasksura court have to adjust to him as much as Moon adjusts to them.

As I have said, I sincerely hope that this series continues beyond the two books already written (The Cloud Roads and its sequel The Serpent Sea), and will grabbing a copy of the sequel as soon as I can.

I truly loved this book and will now automatically buy any more in this series a.s.a.p.

5 stars