Here we are at the last book in the Diviners quartet, a YA series I’ve been enjoying since 2019, managing to read a book a year with Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile.
So far, I’ve enjoyed each book in the series more than the one that precedes it. But after completing the third book, Before the Devil Breaks You, I became worried that the last book wouldn’t measure up to the previous books and successfully wrap up all the plot threads. Well, now that I’ve completed the last book, it certainly wasn’t the reading experience I hoped for or expected.
YA Historical Fiction; Paranormal
Diviners, book 4
The King of Crows picks up immediately after Before the Devil Breaks You. Will and Mabel are dead. Jake Marlowe is gaining more influence and painting the Diviners as threats to society by posing the deceased Sarah Snow as some sort of saint. The Diviner Crew are at a loss and are running out of options on how to figure out their powers and defeat the King of Crows.
Hoping to reach some sort of compromise with Jake Marlowe, they play into his hands by attending the Sarah Snow memorial, where they realize it’s actually a trap so that Marlowe can capture them for his experiments. To evade capture, the Diviner Crew split up but decide to meet in Bountiful, Nebraska, where the girl Isaiah sees in his visions — Sarah Beth — told him to go so that she can help Isaiah and the Diviner Crew work on their powers to defeat the King of Crows.
Henry, Memphis, and Bill grab a train heading south, where they become mired in a flood and Memphis realizes what it’s really like to be a Black man in America’s southern states. Ling and Jericho meanwhile hitch a ride with Alma and the Harlem Haymakers, who are on tour. Ling tries to come to terms with her feelings for Alma and whether or not their relationship will work, and Jericho gets a new love (which I was glad for). Theta, Evie, and Isaiah make a detour to save Sam before hitching a ride with a circus to get to Bountiful.
This then becomes a roadtrip story that takes forever to get to the point, but pops in a ghostly appearance and taunting from the King of Crows every now and then to keep things interesting. (Goodreads)
Despite looking forward to this installment of the series and hoping it would end on a strong note, it did not work out that way for me. I still gave it a high rating because I couldn’t ignore that Bray is a great writer, did a lot of research to fully immerse her readers into the period (late 1920s), and has managed to make the series an atmospheric, creepy read. And despite what I see as its shortcomings, I often liked what I read.
But I struggled, vacillating between being annoyed and bored, and didn’t find it memorable by the end. So although I completed the book in November, I remember more scenes from books I read in October and August than this one.
I’ve come to realize that road-trip novels are probably not for me. I’ve read two other books that would fall into this category, and I struggled with them too. They just seem to take forever to get to the point. In King of Crows, there’s a long lull in the middle as the characters try to get to Bountiful, where Sarah Beth is. I thought the plot would pick up once they get there, but it doesn’t. Instead it stalls for so long that I was almost tempted to give up reading. I didn’t give up, but I’d given up on the story and began skimming after the characters leave Bountiful.
However during the plot’s lull and stall, we do get some character development. To me, the character who develops the most is Evie. She begins the story as fun-loving but very self-centered leaning into selfishness, and she ends it still fun-loving, despite all she’s endured, and still self-centered but not as selfish. I wasn’t an Evie fan in the first book, and I’m still not, but you can’t help but admire her for how committed she is to what she believes. I wonder if many readers disliked her as well because there’s a part in this book where an attempt is made to dig into why Ling dislikes Evie but doesn’t mind Henry. At that part, the story presents Evie and Henry as almost mirrors of each other, which I disagreed with. But I think the author is probably talking to readers in that part — to readers who dislike Evie.
I think the key difference between Henry and Evie is that Henry is more cautious and comes off as more considerate than Evie. There are many times when Evie does not consider how her actions will affect others and doesn’t realize that her actions and decisions will place others in danger. She only realizes this after the danger has happened or after the situation has passed. Henry doesn’t do that. Then again, Henry is never given a leadership role and Evie always takes the position of leader, so her decisions will always have higher consequences. But as I read, I sometimes wished she’d take a moment to really consider what might happen before she acts. And she starts to do that in this book, especially after her first encounter with Mabel’s ghost. Evie’s development really kicked up a notch after that.
Another thing I liked about this book and the series as a whole is that it’s about a group of friends who become family to each other. We see that most clearly with Evie, especially after her interaction with her mother, which is so sad. I was also happy to see the unnecessary love triangle finally dissipate. It was obvious from book one that Evie and Sam should be together. Evie’s relationship with Jericho is unfortunate. I’m sorry it happened and didn’t like how it worked out in the end. They should have remained friends from the beginning. The only other thing I can remember liking is that we get Jake Marlowe’s backstory to see what’s really motivating him to pursue the King of Crows and gather up Diviners. I’m glad we get some answers there.
As for my gripes — other than the lull and stall — I also didn’t like how things work out for Isaiah. What a waste of a character?! I was so upset. I skimmed even more after that part and didn’t pay much attention to the big finale, so I have no memory how the story actually ends. I just remember feeling uninterested and happy that the book is done.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½
Although my reading experience with this book wasn’t the best, I’d still recommend it and the series. The previous three books are wonderful, and I highly recommend them. I’d like to reread King of Crows one day because I began reading it in fits with long breaks between each reading, so that may have contributed to the lull I felt (but not by much).
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Because I recommend the series and intend to collect the books. I already own this book and the second in the series, Lair of Dreams.
Quotes from the book
“Whatever you do, don’t let the Bible salesmen in … They’re harder to get rid of than murderers.”
6 thoughts on ““The King of Crows” by Libba Bray”
It’s interesting you mentioned road-trip novels. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a road-trip novel, but I have watched a few road-trip movies that I enjoyed.
I’m not sure if there’s a more technical name for them, but I use that term for books where a bulk of it focuses on the character travelling and how the journey changes them. Similar to quest stories but just not as adventurous… not sure if that makes sense, lol.
It makes perfect sense, and I totally get it. 🙂
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I only read the first book in this series. I loved Libba Bray’s first series, and I enjoy her writing a lot, but I was never motivated to finish this series.
It is a slow-paced story, so I know that’s turned off some folks, and the protag is a bit unlikeable at times, but it is a good series to get stuck in, despite my struggle with this book.
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