Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray is actually the second book in the Diviners Series.  I confess I was not aware of that when I first spotted this book but I really don’t think it affected my enjoyment of the story.  I think it would be good to read the first – just purely to see what the characters went through (which there is mention made of in this and it sounds quite chilling) but, genuinely, I think this works perfectly as a standalone.

Set in New York during the roaring 20s this book is a feast for the imagination.  The writing is excellent and it conjures the setting perfectly.  Libba Bray has a way with words.  She’s almost lyrical and her writing is really quite beautiful to read.

The Diviners (book No.1)  – unsurprisingly, brought to us a number of people who seem to be gifted in the ways of divination – they can maybe foresee things, maybe they can speak to the dead or perhaps they can walk inside the dreamscape of others.  Lair of Dreams continues with this storyline but takes a sinister turn making dream walking a very dangerous pastime.

At the start of the story workmen uncover an abandoned part of the city that has been long since buried.  What they don’t realise is that they’ve unleashed something in doing so.  Something evil that preys on the energy of others and ensnares them in their worst nightmares.

The setting is the glorious 20s.  Bobs and beaded dresses.  The Charleston, Follies, prohibition, speakeasies and the people’s love of celebrity.

Evie, who starred in the first book is now the Sweetheart Seer.  She works on the radio and uses her divining abilities to locate the dead for people and ask them questions on behalf of their relatives – sometimes this can be simply to locate a missing object or sometimes it can be a bit more sneaky.

The other main characters are Theta and Henry who share an apartment – not romantically inclined – just friends.  Henry is lovelorn.  He’s from an ‘old’ family and had to run away from home when his father found that he liked a particular young man and was about to bring shame to their door.  Henry is a dreamwalker and ever since he was forced to run from the family home he’s being trying to find his sweetheart Louis – through the dreamworld.

Ling is half Chinese, half Irish.  She suffered from polio and as a result can no longer walk without the aid of braces and crutches.  Ling is also a dreamwalker and she’s about to make friends with Henry.  Together they find they can do more and stay longer in this dream world and they both start to take risks, particularly Henry who seems to be losing his grip on reality and spends more and more time in this dream limbo.

Theta is a chorus girl in the follies – she’s also running away from a dark past that she tries to keep hidden.  She’s met a young man called Memphis – another diviner and healer.

And then there’s Sam and Jericho – both again with secrets of their own.

So we have the stage and the players – all that remains is the plot.

A sleeping sickness is taking over in New York.  People go to bed in the evening and come morning are impossible to awaken.  There’s no connection between the people who come down with the sickness – they seem to be perfectly random – old, young, male, female – basically everyone is equally at risk.  Of course this causes a kind of panic in the streets where racism and hatred start to breed.  Meanwhile, underneath the city a strange presence stalks.  Something that is very hungry and seeks revenge.

The story has two separate elements – there’s the story of the evil and what it wants and separately there’s a story starting to unfold about a secret Government project that seemed to be cataloguing and collecting people with special diving talents.  Both of these stories are at the point of converging as this story concludes leaving a great set up for the next story.

What I really liked about this was (1) the writing.  Which, as I said above is really beautiful and evocative.  If the 1920s is the period for you then you’re in for a treat with this book as you practically feel like you’re in the city during that time!  Bray manages to capture the wonderful over the top desperation for fun and the quirkiness of an era that was daring to be different at the same time as injecting quite a darkly spooky ghost story for good measure and (2) the characters.  I’m always going on about good characters and this story excels for me in that respect.  We have this group of friends with all their strange inner squabbles and insecurities and yet they do manage to rally together when needed.  I confess that Ling was probably my favourite – I really liked her blunt honesty and no frills attitude and I was genuinely worried for her at certain parts of the story.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, not really a criticism but this is quite a long book – or at least it will undoubtedly feel like it takes a good deal of time to read.  You simply cannot race through this story even if you want to, not only would that be practically criminal but also you would most certainly miss elements that are critical to the plot as there are little snippets thrown in here there and everywhere with moments of intrigue that jump from one situation to the next.

I really liked this.  Like I said above, if you want a fast paced dark story packed with horror this may not be for you.  This is more subtly crafted, it winds back and forth and gradually reveals additional layers that you never suspected were there in the first instance.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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6 Responses to “Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray”

  1. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    OK, I can’t stop looking at that author’s name and seeing Library with a couple extra letter thrown in. But, that aside, glad you liked this. Books you have to savor are good from time to time.

    • lynnsbooks

      Hah – I never noticed that – maybe that’s why I like her, it’s like subliminal appeal or something.
      Her writing is very evocative to read, it’s not quick because it’s almost like you have to slow down a little and read it carefully. It was good though.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Danya @ Fine Print

    Ah yes, the roaring twenties! Such a great setting for a paranormal, no? I love the inclusion of mediums and diviners because that was something people believed in so genuinely at the time so it feels a bit more authentic than most paranormal elements. Super long books seem to be par for the course with Libba Bray – did you read her Gemma Doyle books? The final one was like 800 pages long!

    • lynnsbooks

      the 20’s really is a great setting and Libba Bray is a very evocative writer. Some people would probably think maybe too wordy but I enjoyed it. The Gemma Doyle Books – are they A Great and Terrible Beauty, etc, if so, then yes, I did read them. And, yes – long!
      Lynn 😀

  3. August brings the sheaves of corn… |

    […] Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray […]

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    […] Roaring 20s. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray.  A book about diviners: people who can see into the future.  This is a beautifully […]

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