Review: Historical Fiction · Review: Mystery · Review: Romance · Review: Supernatural · Review: Teen Fiction

Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

This is the second installment in the Diviners series. There will be spoilers for the first book. If you haven’t read the first book, my review can be found here.

Summary

Since Evie’s announcement to the world of her powers, she has become popular among the press as she puts on shows as a diviner. But unbeknownst to her, a mysterious sleeping sickness has begun to sweep through New York City. There is something or someone in the world of dreams that beckons to the living and traps their souls in good dreams, sucking the life from them. Henry, searching for his long-lost lover in dreams, meets Ling and Wai-Mae, two other dream walkers.

The Love Stories

This book is mostly a series of love stories. Henry and Louis. Theta and Memphis. The godawful mess that is the intersecting love triangles of Mabel-Jericho-Evie-Sam. Even the hints of deep affection between Ling and Wai-Mae.

At the end of the Diviners, Jericho and Evie shared a romantic interlude. Between Mabel’s long-standing crush on Jericho and Sam’s barely-there vying for Evie’s attention, I was a little horrified to realize that this was headed towards two intersecting love triangles. And boy, was that utterly the case. I am not a fan of the love triangle as it is, and two intersecting love triangles is my least favorite kind. (On the other hand, make that three or four, or go for an all-out love dodecahedron, and I’m interested again.) And boy, did this book milk those two triangles for all they were worth. But on the other hand, it used them quite effectively to push character development, so I can’t fault it all that much.

The thing is, the others—Henry/Louis, Theta/Memphis, Ling/Wai-Mae—are all doomed from the start. Homosexual or interracial couples in the 1920s? There can be no happy ending. And that adds a bitter edge to the sweetness exhibited between these couples.

Character Development (Woot!!)

There was so much character development! Oh, where to begin? At the beginning of The Diviners, I was a little concerned that everyone seemed to be a little too easy to pigeon-hole into a stereotype or archetype. But boy, if there were one way to make a stereotype work and be dynamic, it seems that Bray would be the author to find it.

Evie was outgoing, carefree, confident and a heartbreaker in the first book. She still is. But we got a hint of what consequences do to her in the first book: with regards to her brother James, and during her fallout with Mabel. This book takes that even further, until it’s clear to us readers that Evie is a facade hiding a mess of a puddle underneath. She tells Jericho that she is pushing him away because of Mabel; but as we see through her subsequent actions, it’s most likely not loyalty to Mabel, but her own fear of real feelings and of being tied down that hold her back.

Jericho started out cool and stoic. He is still outwardly stoic, no doubt, but we have too much insight into his mind now. His pining for Evie is utterly painful, and his attempts to develop feelings for Mabel are heartbreaking.

But Mabel—oh, Mabel! She started out timid and utterly under Evie’s wing. We saw her break out of that a little in the first book, but that’s nothing next to her growth in this one. She breaks out of her shell and begins to take charge of her own life.

Sam started out as a conman, a sort of male version of Evie. But even as we begin to see the crumbled ruins of a human being underneath her facade, we begin to see that Sam’s facade hides a genuine, caring person.

One of my biggest disappointments in the first book was the lack of development for Henry. This book was so Henry-centric that I almost forgot that I ever had that complaint at all. Henry’s journey through this book was so utterly worth watching. As his obsession with his dreams deepens, his relationship with Theta worsens and his concern for real world concerns (like his job) diminish. Yet at his core, he cares deeply for Theta, and develops a similarly close platonic relationship with Ling. These relationships were, I felt, where the heart of this book lay and a delight to read.

Memphis and Theta were the two without much (if any) development this book; but I suspect that we can await that in the next volume.

My Thoughts Overall

I loved this book even as I felt like it was killing me to read it. I complained repeatedly to the cousin who recommended the series to me that this book was sucking my soul out through my eyes. Everything from the writing style to the characterization worked amazingly for me.

But okay, I need to take a moment and reflect on Evie. As I mentioned, the main plot of this book was Henry-centric. If this were not a series, Evie and her drama would be a little out of place—she doesn’t really join the main plot until the climax, and even then she’s dead drunk. Which brings me to my point. This girl is beyond damaged. At the rate that she drinks, I have to wonder if she’s not going to die of liver failure before she reaches 30. It isn’t endearing, it’s scary. The book did a good job of portraying that Evie has a problem, but it didn’t seem to emphasize how detrimental alcoholism usually is, and I’m more and more worried about how the next book will seek to resolve it.

Bottom line, however: the mystery, the atmosphere and the writing were all stunning. Characters and their relationships were well-developed. It consumed me while I was between the pages, and I can hardly wait to read the next book.

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