Book: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2)
Author: Libba Bray
Narrator: January LaVoy
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Ling and Wei Mei (I think that’s how her name is spelt, I don’t know since I listened rather than read) talk about the dreamscape and how to control things in it.
After reading the first Diviners book back in July, I enjoyed it, but had kind of mixed feelings. I was unsure whether to continue with the series, but my friend Nicola assured me that the series did get better, and less confusing in the later books, so I decided to try the other two books. I’m glad I did, because I did enjoy this book a lot more than the previous one, the narrative felt more cohesive, the many disparate characters more joined together, and there were more seeds for future books being set up, it definitely seemed to drive the series forward more than the last book.
Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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?
Like the last book, I definitely think my favourite thing about this book was the narration. January LaVoy is brilliant at making these books come to life, she really captures the spooky feeling, and is wonderful at different voices to boot, so it’s easy to keep track of who is who, which is no mean feat when you’re dealing with such a sprawling cast of characters.
Libba Bray’s writing is also lovely and evocative, it really sets the scene and though I’m not very good at picturing things in my head, I definitely got the feeling of being in New York in the 1920s with all these spooky, paranormal things going on, so mission accomplished in that respect. The 1920s slang still kind of annoyed me, but it didn’t feel like there was quite as much of it in this book, and one of the characters even made fun of it, so it felt a bit more self referential this time, which was good.
Then we get to the characters. Obviously there is a very large cast of them, but I feel like this book does a better job of having an ensemble cast, rather than having four leads and other characters that just seem to pop up occasionally. Where the first book was largely Evie’s, this book focuses more on Henry and new character Ling, who are dreamwalkers and I liked them quite a bit more than Evie, so I wasn’t annoyed by the shift in focus. There are still characters that feel somewhat circumstantial for most of the book, largely Memphis and Theta, but they do all come together in the end and it was nice to see them all work together. Mabel, who was quite flat in the first book, came into her own a lot more in this one, and I was glad she finally stood up for herself.
We get a lot more of Henry and his backstory in this book, which I loved because I really like Henry, I’ve always had a soft spot for musicians and Henry is lovely and charming & I really felt for him after learning more about his backstory. I also find his friendship with Theta really lovely, how supportive of each other they are, and how much they genuinely love each other (in a platonic way, Henry is gay) and even through their ups and downs in this book, it’s clear how much they care.
We also meet new character Ling Chan in this book, who is a biracial (Irish/Chinese) dreamwalker and I really loved her. She has such a dry, sarcastic sense of humour, which of course I loved & her friendship with Henry was definitely a standout part of this book for me. She also uses crutches and leg braces, as her legs were affected by infantile paralysis, and it was so awesome to see a disabled character where their disability was important, but it their entire story wasn’t centred around that. Also a disabled character in a historical fiction book? YES. Ling, I think, is my favourite character in this series, maybe tying with Sam, she’s very serious and into science but also has great humour and I really loved that.
Evie still frustrated me in this book, in fact probably more than in the last book. I appreciated that Bray showed the effects that the events of The Diviners had on her, and the fact that she’s clearly suffering from PTSD but I still found her pretty frustrating. She’s a terrible friend, she’s selfish, she thinks drinking and partying will solve all her problems, I just found it quite frustrating watching her self-destruct. I did appreciate that in this book though, her friends were more willing to call her on her bullshit, especially Sam, because it was about time that someone mentioned her drinking problem.
The love triangle once again frustrated me, because I think Evie and Sam have so much more chemistry than Evie and Jericho and honestly Jericho is just dull? Sam is charming and cheeky and just a lot more fun than Jericho and I think Evie and him bounce off each other much better than Evie and Jericho. I also think that they bring out the best in each other, as neither is afraid to call the other out when they’re being stupid. Also I actually really enjoy Sam and Jericho’s friendship, it’s strange but it works and I don’t really want the love triangle to ruin it.
Speaking of Sam, I liked that in this book, we got to see a lot more of his past and his family background, I really liked getting to see how he came to be the person that he is, and I really enjoyed his investigations with Evie into Project Buffalo.
I definitely think this book leaned into the supernatural powers more, we get to see the full range of everyone’s powers, it’s not just Evie and her object reading that we get to see in this book, we have dreamwalking, we have invisibility, we have healing, prophecy, burning things….there’s a large range of supernatural powers to enjoy. Dreamwalking is definitely my favourite one though, I thought it was so cool!
I thought the mystery was much better done in this book, whilst I still worked out what was going on before it was revealed, there were clues throughout the book and you could work it out, it wasn’t as out and out obvious from the beginning as it was in the first book.
I also enjoyed the diversity in this book, we have POC, LGBTQ+ and disabled characters, and unlike the first book, this book actually explored what those characters would have faced in the time period in a deeper way which I appreciated. There was however some employment of the tragic gay stereotype and whilst I did feel the emotion from the story, it definitely does play into stereotypes about historical gays. Bray doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of the 1920s, particularly when it comes to race, and I definitely appreciated that.
I thought it was a shame that Will had basically no role in this book, as I liked learning a little more about his role in Project Buffalo, and I also like seeing parental figures play more of a role in their teens lives, so hopefully he is more involved in the next book.
There are quite a lot of story threads to keep track of in this book, and whilst it was easier than in the first book, it still got a bit confusing at times. Memphis still seems to be largely separate from the others, where Theta is linked through Evie and Henry to the rest of the group, Memphis doesn’t really have any real connection, so he still seems somewhat on the sidelines.
I’m really not a fan of Jericho, he’s very severe and serious, and unlike Ling, doesn’t have the deadpan humour to make up for it. I also really hated what Jericho did to Mabel, I thought it was really unfair of him to lead her on when he knew he liked Evie.
I still have a lot of questions about the overarching plot, I’m intrigued by Project Buffalo and would love to know more, I assume the guys named after the Founding Fathers are involved? Why are they studying Diviners? Why are there so many of them? Why are they stronger together? Who is the Man in the Stovepipe Hat? Who is the King of Crows? How was Will involved? I have so many questions and this book didn’t really answer any of them, so I’m hoping the next book will! I also want to know why Sam doesn’t remember any of the Project Buffalo testing as it seems like he was old enough to.
I hope Theta gets a bit more of a plot in the next book, she is involved here, but largely in relation to Memphis and Henry and in the next book, I’d love it if she got more of her own storyline, she has such an interesting past and I’d love the next book to explore that more, it definitely seems like it will from where she ended up in this book.
I did feel like it was a little overly long, it was over 20 hours, and it still didn’t feel like there was enough content to fill that. In addition it was quite slow paced, and only really started to pick up about halfway through.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, I thought it was a lot better than the first book in terms of balancing the characters, a better developed mystery and a lot more work done to further the overarching plot of the book, though I still felt that it was overly long!
My Rating: 4/5
My next review will be of Into The Crooked Place, by Alexandra Christo, which will probably be up next week, prior to its release date on the 8th October.