Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) – Libba Bray

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Summary:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Review:

Lair of Dreams is a paranormal thriller about people with psychic abilities. It’s a lovely little bit of literary fiction where one doesn’t necessarily expect it: in the pages of a Young Adult novel. This book has a lot going it: a fairly tight story, a diverse cast that takes you all across New York City from Harlem to Chinatown to Fifth Avenue, a nice historical setting in the 1920s and a wonderfully creepy central mystery: what is causing people to fall asleep and never wake up, with the afflicted appearing to die from wounds suffered from the inside out.

You can all sense a but coming, can’t you?

But.

I feel the pacing of the book was slow, that it took a long time to get to where it was going, and I think that it ties in to the other problem: there were just a few characters too many. On a blog post Bray stated she had to write something like seven opening chapters and she probably wasn’t far off in her count. There are a lot of players in this book, and perhaps not entirely surprisingly, they aren’t all created equal. For example, there is a man named Blind Bill who feels it is his due to get healed by a Diviner with a healing gift, and so he more or less starts stalking the kid and trying to bring harm to the brother to get his healing. It isn’t as menacing as it should be, and the ones he chase are among the less developed characters so it left me with this sense of can we get back to the others now?  There’s a plot in here about a secret government agency that is presumably Up to No Good either that is continually hinted at through out the book but never really comes to the fore (clearly they’ll be the bad guys for the next book) and as such their parts kind of drag too. It’s nice seeing a YA title being allowed to take its time and breath (the book clocks in at an impressive 702 pages) but it’s too easy for books this long to lose momentum in places and I feel like this one did.

Now I haven’t read the first book, so I can’t say if or how they compare. Am I compelled to give it a look? Maybe? Kinda? Sorta?

I think I felt like this book is one of those books that had so many good pieces that I want to love it more than I actually did. That being said, if you like moody thrillers, this may well work for you. If you’re looking for diverse YA I can absolutely recommend it on that front. If you want a little more action in your book you may want to give it a pass.

Ultimately, I think it’s fair to say that Bray has deservedly earned the following she’s got. Maybe she’s just not the author for me. If the premise or the setting or the diversity appeal you, I’d say give it a look – you might well love it. I will say too that for a sequel, I found it very newbie friendly. Yes, there are totally nods back to the first story, but those times were relatively far and few between and I think it’s easy to figure out what’s going on.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: August 25

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