Review: Veronica Roth’s “The Transfer: A Divergent Story”

I have a huge, almost to the point of embarrassment, literary crush on Tobias Eaton or Four, whichever name you prefer, Veronica Roth‘s Divergent series. He’s easily my next favorite character next to the protagonist, Tris. So, needless to say, I became excited when I heard that there will be four short stories about Four.

The said stories are mostly set before the events in Divergent and the first of the e-shorts, The Transfer, tells about Four’s move from Abnegation to Dauntless. It runs parallel to the first few chapters of Divergent with Tris also transferring to the same faction.

The Transfer - Veronica Roth

The Transfer is a strong opening for the mini-series, which serves as a prequel of some sorts for the Chicago-based dystopian. Readers may already know Four’s backstory, yes, but hearing it told from his more detailed point of view was interesting.

The e-short also offers answers to some questions readers may have had from the first book like his aptitude test result. Of course, we all know that Tobias got Abnegation but it wasn’t explained how exactly he got that. He just plainly told Tris that he got Abnegation, and if I’m being totally honest, I thought it was a lie; I thought that he got an inconclusive result, too.

What probably struck me most in this short story was the details of Tobias’ relationship with his father, Marcus. It explains much about the depth of his fear of his father. Reading that part of Four’s story will make readers understand why he felt so betrayed when Tris worked alongside Marcus in Insurgent.

The Transfer may sound redundant to some.  It may also have offered fewer than expected insights on Tobias’ character and the few that were explained in this story weren’t necessarily secrets readers didn’t already know. It was an expanded and more detailed explanation about Tobias’ beginnings. It was a setting-the-scene story. But, overall, The Transfer was an enjoyable and interesting read. It reminded me of why I loved Four’s character in the first place that I didn’t really mind if some events seemed rehashed. Besides, there are three other Four short stories and I think as they progress, we’ll get to know more about this deep and secretive character.

Rated: 4/5

Book Review: Libba Bray’s “The Diviners”

The Diviners - Libba Bray

Confession time. For someone trained to see blood and gore, I am one big yellow chicken. And so it goes, I try to avoid watching and/or reading about anything scary and creepy as much as I can. I’m still sane enough to want to sleep, thank you very much.

But a book about the occult written by Libba Bray just sounds too good to pass up. I had to give in.

The Diviners, the first book in a planned series, revolves around a series of mysterious murders to put it simply. It’s set in a bright and bustling 1926 New York City with all its speakeasies, theaters and movie palaces. Evie O’Neill is our main protagonist. After a party stunt that went awry, she gets booted out from her Ohio hometown and shipped to NYC to live with her bachelor uncle Will who’s obsessed with the occult. Evie quickly settles into her new life; everything’s  fun and exciting, and she’s enjoying it, that is before the body of a girl is found with a strange symbol branded upon her and Will is called to help with the investigation. As grisly murder follow one after the other, Evie realizes that her gift can help catch the serial killer but what she discovers when she throws herself deep into the investigation is so much more darker and powerful.

In true twenties fashion, I ab-so-tute-ly enjoyed reading this book. It is rich and vivid. Libba Bray’s engaging writing is the strongest asset of this new novel. She just has this way with words, she draws you in and puts you right there with her characters. This is a long book and with its almost 600 pages. It could look daunting but with the way the author wrote her prose, you nearly won’t realize you’re almost through with the story.

Another thing to love about The Diviners is its diverse set of characters. There’s many of them, and what a variety – immigrants, people of color, LGBT characters –  but Bray managed to give readers a chance to get to know each character by dishing out interesting backstories, and expertly going in and out of their lives throughout the story.

I love Evie. I love her audacity and boldness. She is flawed – self-centered, irrational, tackless, a mess-up – but deep inside she means well and truly cares for her family and friends. There’s so much room for her to grow in the next books.

Every so often, in every book there’s one or two side characters that simply draw you in. For this book, its Theta and Henry. They both present cool facades but their backstories are tragic. Also, I’m not quite sure what Henry’s special gift is, so that’s something I would love to find out in the next installment.

As for the creepy factor, it’s well up there. Not Stephen King scary but frightening enough to make you not want to read it at night for fear of dreaming about it especially if you are the highly-imaginative kind.

Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about The Diviners is its excessive historical background. Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand that Libba Bray‘s setting the mood for the whole series and I appreciate that she took time to thoroughly research about the twenties – she nailed it from the dresses to the language to the sights and scenes of the time period – but I think she could have shortened it to a few pages then got on with her narrative. The characters’ use of twenties slang was also excessive to the point of irritation. But it’s not really that big of a deal. The Diviners is a great read enough for people to get over the minor flaws. I will definitely grab the next book as soon as it’s out.

Rating: 4/5