If you love SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo or VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead, pick up BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU by Libba Bray, as it is a mixture of the two. The third novel of Bray’s four-part Diviners series is finally out after an agonizing two-year wait. Let’s dive right in!
BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU opens with an excerpt from Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America.” The poem describes the incessant discrimination minorities faced, and their longing for the America that was described in the Constitution, the land where every man was endowed with certain unalienable rights and was free to pursue life, liberty and happiness. The Harlem poet succinctly phrases this struggle in mere sentences, and I adore how Bray opened her novel with this poem.
“BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU is a thrilling third addition to the series that will have you on an emotional rollercoaster all the way through. Grab your tissues and your electromagnetic field detectors as you embark on this harrowing journey.”
As illustrated by her choice of excerpts, BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU puts a greater focus on race relations and the movements pushing for equality in 1920s America. The reader gains a greater sense of the anti-foreigner sentiment of the period, and emphasis is put on the popular concept of “racial purity.” We learn about racial miscegenation laws (laws which prohibit interracial marriage), institutional discrimination (as illustrated in Memphis’ and Ling’s inability to stay at the Winthrop Hotel) and primarily, we are given an in-depth background of the eugenics movement. I would say the most heartbreaking moment of this reality is when Isaiah, as a young child, realizes how society perceives him.
“His stomach hurt all of a sudden like he’d eaten too much candy, and he wished he could throw it up. Isaiah glanced furtively at all the people in the tent: white mothers, white fathers, white nurses, white doctors. When they looked his way, he saw the hare-quick downturn of their mouths before they corrected it. He felt it before he saw it. The way you could smell rain before the first drop hit your skin. He shoved his own deep, dark brown hands into his pockets, as if by hiding some part of his body, he could hide all of himself.”
Mabel also faces her fair share of tragic, pain-inducing moments as she begins to carve out her own path as a socialist and an activist. For the first time, the reader sees Mabel as more than the girl in love with Jericho: we see her as the independent, socially conscious woman she is. However, we also see inner-conflict as Mabel is faced with a multitude of moral dilemmas.
Mabel’s storyline is completely separate from Evie’s as Evie deals with a ghost Armageddon hanging over head. BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU immediately picks up after LAIR OF DREAMS as the Diviners are preparing for war. Memphis, Evie, Isaiah, Sam, Ling and Henry begin to explore the parameters of their powers with the assistance of Mrs. Margaret and Will. If you were impressed with the extent of the Diviners’ powers before, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Evie and her crew of Diviners are confronted with the grand nemesis of the series: The King of Crows. While Naughty John and Wae-Mae were disturbingly powerful, the reader discovers there is an even greater force behind this epidemic of ghosts.
Bray continues to wow readers with her penchant for fabricating scenes of immense terror and ghoulishness as BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU features a new type of ghost. These ghosts are now able to possess humans and drive them to commit mass murder. Not only that, but they make their homes in the fog of Ward’s island. Demonic ghosts = creepy; demonic ghosts that manifest out of fog = extremely creepy.
But don’t fret, this paranormal novel still retains its contemporary feel as relationships grow and develop. Ling gets a black girlfriend (two thumbs up for an interracial, same-sex relationship) and the reader is introduced to Henry’s new love interest, the piano-playing David. Lastly, Evie makes the final choice between Jericho and Sam while Theta and Memphis begin to have relationship problems.
Overall, BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU is a thrilling third addition to the series that will have you on an emotional rollercoaster all the way through. Grab your tissues and your electromagnetic field detectors as you embark on this harrowing journey.