Book: The King Of Crows (The Diviners #4)
Author: Libba Bray
Narrator: January LaVoy
BECHDEL TEST: Uncertain, again, I didn’t keep track massively well!
Content Warnings: Racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, sexism, eugenics, blood, gore, animal death, mentions of suicidal thoughts, mentions of rape and abuse, mentions of slavery (there’s probably more that I may have left out)
So here we are, the final book in the Diviners series! I actually can’t remember a time I finished a book series this quickly, I usually read as they come out, and by the time I started The Diviners, there was only this book left to come, so I actually finished all these books less than a year after I first started the series. I think the only recent series that I finished as fast, or maybe faster, is the Shades of Magic trilogy which I absolutely devoured back in 2016/early 2017.
Anyway, naturally I was really excited for The King of Crows, especially after I really loved Before The Devil Breaks You. And I did enjoy it, but I wasn’t quite as blown over by this series conclusion as I hoped I was going to be. The pacing, something I think I’ve complained about with this series before, was totally off and honestly I think it was a lot longer than it really needed to be. That being said, of course I loved the characters, and I did find the conclusion satisfying, so it wasn’t a total loss as a series finale. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
The breath-taking finale to the epic New York Times bestseller, The Diviners, from Printz winner and beloved author, Libba Bray.
After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.
While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners’ help to do it.
Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe’s estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow’s plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.
But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.
In this sweeping finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe…
So as I mentioned above, my biggest problem with this book was definitely the pacing. It was very uneven. The first half does a pretty good job at building the tension, but then it really lagged in the middle and the conclusion was just totally rushed. Someone on Goodreads described the middle of this book as like the infamous Camping sections in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows and I really feel like they hit the nail on the head. It felt like all the stakes and tension had been completely drained and the Diviners were just wandering the country aimlessly. Obviously that’s not true, but as a reader it felt kind of pointless. I don’t care what Memphis and Henry and Bill are doing in Mississippi, I want to know how the King of Crows is gonna go down!
I also feel like the book was just too long? I get that maybe Libba Bray wanted all her books to be of a similar length and maybe that her readers were expecting a long book, but I just didn’t feel that the book needed to be as long as it was. I mean one of the chapters on the audio was over an hour long! There was plenty from this book that could have been cut and the story wouldn’t have lost anything.
One of my other major problems with this was something that I complained about in my reviews of both The Diviners and Lair of Dreams. The Diviners works best when the whole group is together, it thrives off that group dynamic. We had that in Before The Devil Breaks You, but here we’re back to the group being split up for a large portion to the book, and I didn’t really like that. I appreciated that we got to explore different dynamics within the group (the amusement of Jericho and Ling being stuck on the road together was something I didn’t know I needed) and I also loved getting to see Evie and Theta’s friendship more, but I still would have liked more of the whole group together.
With such a big cast of characters, it’s pretty much a guarantee that some get lost in the shuffle. The books have been pretty good about giving everyone a chance to shine, but I still felt kind of sad that some of my faves weren’t featured as prominently in this book. For me, I wished Henry, Ling and Sam had more time to shine in this book, Henry especially because I feel like he was barely used after Lair of Dreams? Also I really, really love Sam and just wanted to see more of him.
Speaking of Sam, I felt like the mission to rescue him was kind of rushed? I mean it was such a huge part of the way the last book ended, and it just seemed way, way too easy. I also would have liked it if his trauma from being hooked up to the eye was explored more, Libba Bray has been so good in the other books about dealing with characters’ trauma and it would have been nice if Sam had been given the same care. His reunion with his mother is also another moment that I would have liked to have been given more consideration, since the two haven’t seen each other in a decade!
I said this in the last review, and I’ll say it again, The King of Crows is a lame villain. I get what Libba Bray was trying to go for, with the whole “the villain is the evils of humanity” but I prefer my villains to be less abstract. The King of Crows felt kind of wishy-washy and I always felt like Jake Marlowe was the real villain of the story anyway.
I feel like I’ve complained a lot about a book that I actually did enjoy, so let me focus a little on the good parts of this book for a moment. The narration, as it has been for the other three books, was amazing. January LaVoy is a real talent, and I definitely hope to find more audiobooks she has narrated in the future. I also really loved Libba Bray’s writing, it was so creepy and eerie.
And of course, I love these characters. I have my favourites (Sam, Henry, Ling, Theta) and those I love a little less (Memphis, Jericho, Evie, though she has grown on me) but ultimately as a group, their dynamic is so brilliant that it doesn’t even matter if you love some more than the others. You are rooting for all of them, as their own little family. It’s been brilliant to see their development over the course of the series, particularly for Evie and Theta, I feel like those two have definitely grown the most from where they were in book one to where they end up. Seeing Theta reclaim her power and come into her own is probably one of the most gratifying arcs of the series for me.
I also really liked that Evie finally faced up to her mother again, her issues with her family have been something that have been hanging over her for the whole series and it was great to see her embracing herself and realising that she doesn’t need the acceptance of her family, because she’s created her own. Her arcs were actually weirdly some of my favourite in this book, seeing her grapple with her grief over Mabel’s death was really emotional and I’m glad that Bray didn’t gloss over all the feelings she had about that. I would have liked it if her feelings over Will hadn’t been brushed over as quickly, granted you don’t have much time to process when you’re saving the world, but it did seem like a bit of an oversight.
The representation in this was also, of course, really good. I love the wide range of diversity, we have POC, we have LGBTQA+ characters, we have a Jewish character, we have a disabled character, there’s a lot to love about the diversity in this cast. I also love that Bray doesn’t shy away from talking about mental health, the frank discussion that Evie and Theta have about depression and suicidal thoughts is difficult to listen to, no doubt, but I love that she was willing to go there and not shy away from it.
This book is the first one that takes place largely away from New York, and whilst I appreciate that Bray was trying to show life in the 1920’s away from big cities, I feel like a lot of the series’ character comes from the setting and that this book was definitely missing something there.
I do have a small bone to pick about Ling’s asexuality here. Obviously, I’m not part of that community, so I’m not an authority on this, but I did feel a little uncomfortable with parts of her story here. I didn’t love that Bray made out like the only way that Alma could be with Ling was if she was able to have sex with other people. Of course people have different levels of sexual attraction and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it’s pretty harmful messaging to send that the only way someone can be in a relationship with an asexual person is to have sex with other people.
I loved how Libba Bray explored internalised misogyny with Ling though, I thought it was really cool and one of the best parts of Jericho and Ling’s little sojourn with the Haymakers as she does have a tendency to judge Evie much more harshly than Henry for very similar behaviour and it was great to see that acknowledge on page.
I do like that these books touch on politics, but it felt a little heavy handed here, more so than in the first few books. There were whole chapters here that were basically devoted to talking about America’s history and facing up to the demons of the past, which is fine, it’s the theme of the series, but I didn’t really need entire chapters of Memphis talking about the country’s history. I feel like she could have got the point across without having entire chapters about it.
I was expecting more action for this being a final book, there was some, but not quite as much as I was hoping for.
There were a lot of stupid decisions made by the characters, and I felt like Bray kind of wrote herself into a corner with some of them. I can’t really talk too many specifics as it would be spoilery, but a few times there were plot points she needed to happen at the end of the book, and she then had to deus ex machina her way out because of stuff that had happened earlier in the book.
I did find the ending satisfying, even if it was perhaps a little rushed. It also felt from the epilogue of the book that Bray might be setting up for a future spinoff series with The Diviners, which I seriously hope is true, because I don’t want this to be the end for the gang forever!
Overall, this was a satisfying end to The Diviners series, even if it wasn’t my favourite book in the series. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a decent send off for Sam, Evie, Theta, Ling, Jericho, Isaiah, Memphis and Henry. I hope that one day we will see them all again!
My Rating: 4/5
My next review will be of Sara Holland’s newest release, Havenfall, which I have almost finished, so you guys should be getting that within the next week!