Before The Devil Breaks You

New York City. 1927. Lights are bright. Jazz is king. Parties and wild. And the dead are coming.

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that nearly eliminated two of their own, the Diviners have had enough. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten – ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known.

Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the Diviners series by number one New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

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Well. This was quite a ride.

The Diviners series by Libba Bray is a commentary on the state of current American politics wrapped up in a 1920s paranormal thriller. Though the novels have always been explicitly political – the first looked at how the roaring twenties were a reaction to what many felt were the broken promises of the First World War and in the second, Bray addressed immigration by delving into the effects of the Chinese exclusion act, the first federal law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from entering the United States – in book #3, Before The Devil Breaks You (the first Diviners novel to come out in a post-Trump America), Bray is relentless.

Before The Devil Breaks You, ostensibly a book about a group of paranormally powered teenagers fighting to save New York from a horde of murderous zombie ghosts (they are definitely incorporeal but have been known to eat people), is actually a battle for the future of American society. Will we lean towards tolerance and inclusion, or away into fear, anger and violence?

Sounding familiar? It certainly should.

In book #3 our various factions are more divided than they have ever been. Trust has broken down completely between Uncle Will and the Diviners, leaving he and Margaret Walker excluded from the main events of the novel, which, honestly, is more than they deserve. Reliable liars from the start, whether they are truly evil or not – and the point of this book, if anything, is that question – Will and Margaret have been rumbled and the mistakes of their past have truly come back to haunt them. Literally. The city is swarming with ghosts. But the fact is, whether you agree with their actions or not – I’m leaning towards not – like everyone else in this shit show, Margaret and Will were only trying to build the America they wanted to see. They thought they were doing good, and whether they actually were is a question both of them – and the Diviners and us, the readers – are all still trying to answer.

Mabel falls into a similar trap. Her desire for personal glory – prefaced by a genuine need to do good in the world – leads her to join with an organisation called The Six. To many, The Six is an anarchist organisation and perhaps even a dangerous one, whereas to others, they are pioneers of human rights, fighting for those who don’t have a voice in society. Their methods veer into some pretty terrifying territory, and again as the reader we are prompted to ask: do the ends justify the means?

Honestly, it’s too soon to tell.

Before The Devon Breaks You is a great addition to a really noteworthy series. It’s not perfect – there are in my opinion too many primary characters at this point, and the close third person plot skips around a lot, sometimes focusing on multiple people in a single chapter, which I’m not crazy about. But the overarching themes of the series are so relevant and interesting, and the plot pacey enough that none of the issues bothered me too much. And my primary prolem with book #2, the serious lack of Evie, was more than rectified in this round.

Can’t wait for book #4, though past experience with Libba Bray means I am scared for everybody, and particularly any Diviners who may have ended book #3 in need of some redemption. We all know how you get that…

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Author: Lydia Tewkesbury

25. Loves a good story.

18 thoughts on “Before The Devil Breaks You”

    1. I am exactly the same way! I very rarely see a series through to the end or even past the first book tbh, but this one has had me hooked from the start. Libba Bray is one of those authors who has been with me since I was very young, and I auto-buy anything she puts out. She’s such a wonderful author.

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  1. Ooh Lydia, I love your picture!
    I read The Diviners a loooong time ago (in middle school!) when it first came out and really enjoyed it. But the books came out soooo slowly that I just lost interest in it after book 2. Perhaps I’ll binge the series after the conclusion comes out!
    (Although tbh, I’m so scared for the characters as well! From what I remember in book 1, they’re very conflicted and flawed. Wonder how they’ll end up.)
    Awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for saying that! I am always trying to keep up with the amazing bookstagrammers and I get insecure about it, so that means a lot.

      I totally get that. It’s been like 2-3 years between every book and in all honestly it took me quite a long time to pick up book #3 – in part because I didn’t enjoy #2 nearly as much as I did the first one – but it’s worth it.

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  2. I’ve heard so much hype surrounding these books but had no idea they were these huge political manifestos? Wow!
    It’s a shame this one wasn’t the best out of the series, what with the too many characters and whatnot, but it sounds interesting nonetheless 🙂
    Great review, Lydia!

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    1. Libba Bray is amazing. After I wrote this review I read the afterword of the book (I don’t know why I didn’t read that first) and she sums everything up amazingly. She wrote this whole thing about how America is built on success, but it’s also built on oppression and violence and the only way society can progress is to accept both realities. She finished with “This is a book about ghosts. For we live in a haunted house.” CHILLS.

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      1. Wow, those are some powerful words indeed. I think she’s absolutely right and you can tell she’s done her research on the subject, she’s not just spewing whatever comes to mind like most. A very clever lady! Will definitely keep an eye out for her 🙂 Thanks again for the rec!

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  3. I haven’t read the Diviners series yet, but the hype surrounding this third book is really making me want to read it! The only drawback is that I’m intimidated by the size of these books, but now that I know how it draws parallelism to current social situations, I think it would be worth it to give the series a try! Thanks for such a thoughtful review (and convincing me) ❤

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    1. I understand they – are they are incredibley long and I put off reading book #3 for a bit for that exact reason. I would say though that even though they are long (When The Devil Breaks You came in around 530 pages I think), Libba Bray has such a readable style, and the plot moves fast enough with enough character development that it doesn’t feel like you’re wading through something really long. There are quite a few scary bits that you fly through – partly because you want them to be over and party because you just have to know how it all turns out.

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