I debated for awhile about whether or not to do a series review, or just review the last book. But I finally came down on the side of series review because I didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read all of the books. It is easier to review the series as a whole without spoiling I think.
The World Building
Probably the best thing about this series is the setting/world. Ms. Bray does an excellent job of recreating New York City in the 1920’s. The descriptions of the different areas of the city, plus the clothes that everyone wears, food that people ate as well as the language are all exceptionally well done. You almost feel like you are there right along with the characters. I really appreciated the scattering of real people through out the book as well. Some are only mentioned, but others the characters meet. It is that attention to detail that really makes a historical setting sing.
Then there is the overlay of the paranormal part of the story. The abilities that the diviners have are just as diverse as they are. From dream walking, healing, object reading and divination, there is just about everything you can think of. How the author linked it to the eugenics movement of the time period was also well done. Again it was the historical detail that really gave this story such a realistic feel, even with all of the ghost shenanigans thrown in.
The main characters that tell the story are quite the diverse bunch, which made the story far more inspirational. I liked the fact that none of them seemed to harbor any prejudice or bias towards any one else. But there were many instances of other people outside of their core group saying and doing many of the ugly things that went on during this time period. There are many parts told from other perspectives but the main eight diviners carry most of the story.
Each character has their own backstory and issues that they have to confront throughout the books. There is a lot of growth among all of them. They are a rag tag bunch that sometimes have trouble getting along and trusting each other but they always manage to fight for what is right together. Even when the whole world was turned against them and it didn’t seem like they were going to survive, their determination to keep going and to do what was right really was inspiring. They could have all easily given up, but they didn’t.
There are romances between some of the diviners and some of them find love outside of their core group. The romances are so nicely done, and many of them I just ended up adoring. I also enjoyed the special friendships that developed throughout the books. Evie and Theta were just so perfect for each other, they supported each other like sisters and even when they had their differences they always overcame them. Henry and Ling’s bond was also so wonderful. Even though Ling was often frustrated by Henry’s joking and never being serious, she really did care about him like a brother. They were good for each other even when they didn’t think they were getting along.
Each book had its own story, but they were all connected to the bigger picture of why these characters had these powers, and the main evil of The King of Crows was always in them. The plots are all well thought out and never left me wondering about something, although there were some cliff hangers. And while I can’t say that they were necessarily fast paced, they were never boring. There were parts that got a little bogged down in the details, but in the long run these details were what made the story on the whole so wonderful.
All of the books take on some tough topics, such as racism, poverty, immigration, mental illness, and many others. All of these topics are handled well and it is easy to see the parallels between then and now. Many things have changed for the better since the 1920’s but there is still so much more to be done. The feelings and actions of the characters in these difficult situations make them so much more realistic and well rounded.
I’m not sure that I have a favorite of the four books, each one was just as good as the others. I really liked the murder mystery in the first book that Evie helped to solve with her object reading. The dream walking and the terror of the sleeping sickness in Lair of Dreams kind of creeped me out and maybe made me loose a little sleep. The third book, Before the Devil Breaks You was perhaps the best one, if I had to choose. The characters all just really start to come together and there is just so much going on that it was hard to put it down. And then the final book, The King of Crows, everyone just grows so much in this one, and we get to see more of the country than just New York City. I loved the circus and the all girl orchestra that parts of the group join in order to hide from the people chasing them.
If you like historical fantasy then this is a series that you should seriously consider picking up. The books are long, all of them over 500 pages, but they are well worth the time. The historical accuracy merged with ghosts and paranormal powers just makes for a really fun time. The characters are also wonderful and will worm their way into your heart. You end up really caring about almost all of them and want the best for them. The final book really wraps things up nicely too, but left a little something at the end, that maybe suggested that we will be seeing more of the diviners or their children in another book. I am certainly crossing my fingers for that and looking forward to it.