Picture this: You walk into a speakeasy during the 1920’s. All around you are handsome young men and women giving into the good time. You look on stage and there’s a hot jazz band playing all of the songs that you love. So you order a martini and head towards the stage to dance with the rest of the movers and shakers.
Now, mix that image with a haunting ghost story, a religious cult, a little magic, and you have The Diviners.
Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Publication Date: September 18th 2012
Page Count: Hardcover, 578 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.
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Why didn’t I start this book sooner?
Am I a cover snob? That can’t be it because this cover is gorgeous…. Is it because I didn’t know enough about the book? That’s a possibility, but absolutely my fault for not doing more research.
If you have this on your shelves and haven’t started it — please get to it ASAP. I wish that I had read it earlier, clearly… But, I want to make sure that others don’t make the same mistake that I did.
Libba Bray begins her story with a party, where Evie O’Neill is hosting for some friends and begins showing off some “party tricks”. As a modern girl in 1926, Evie is not afraid to speak her mind, and more often than not it gets her into trouble. This party is no different and after a bit of a scandal, her parents ship her off to New York City where she will be living with her uncle.
Her uncle is a recluse bachelor who runs The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. Along with his assistant Jericho, the trio learn to live and work together, but definitely not in harmony. Evie stands out. She shines bright. Her uncle, however, prefers to stay in the background teaching classes and running a seemingly abandoned museum. However, Evie is not about to be overlooked by the bustling and exciting adventure that is NYC. With the beginnings of a murder mystery, as well as her personal drive for stardom, Evie gets involved in an investigation that takes them all down a path that is both dangerous and haunted.
I was discussing this book with my cousin’s friend the other day. I had the book lying around because I’ve been working up to writing this review, and she commented that she enjoyed this story but didn’t like how gory it was. As such, I should disclose that this is not a light hearted ghost story. It speaks to a lot of the madness that was going on during the 1920s into the 1930s…. much of which, in my opinion, still lingers today.
The crimes that occur are written without fear and Bray is not shy on the details. I think that might be part of the reason that I enjoyed this book so much. Libba Bray did her homework. She worked through libraries and interviews to make sure that the details surrounding her story were accurate and, therefore, believable. Even more impressive – in the Author’s Note, at the back of the book, Bray discloses that she has her full bibliography on The Diviners website at TheDivinersSeries.com.
Now, I’m not a fan of ghost stories. I’ve always had terrible problems with nightmares, and so I tend to stay away from these kinds of books/movies, BUT I couldn’t put it down. There were a number of moments when I dreaded the evening because I knew that I needed to stop reading – yes, I am that much of a chicken. It was just so good.
Without giving too much away, I felt like Evie as a protagonist was a little whiney. I just saw her as being such a powerful character, and for the most part she was. But, when she was wallowing and self-indulgent (which were attributes that she was acutely aware of), I stopped caring for her as much.
That was my only qualm. I loved the pace of the story and how Bray does such a beautiful job of
weaving so many seperate story lines together. There were many moments when I would predict certain situations, only to discover that what was to come was better than I had imagined.
I can’t wait to start the sequel, Lair of Dreams, although I think I need to wait a bit after this last one. The scary parts were really well done, but I want to be able to read at all times of the day, not just when it’s bright out. At least for now….
🗯 “Some mornings, she’d wake and vow, Today, I will get it right. I won’t be such an awful mess of a girl. I won’t lose my temper or make unkind remarks. I won’t go too far with a joke and feel the room go quiet with disapproval. I’ll be good and kind and sensible and patient. The sort everyone loves. But by evening, her good intentions would have unraveled. She’d say the wrong thing or talk a little too loudly. She’d take a dare she shouldn’t, just to be noticed. Perhaps Mabel was right, and she was selfish. But what was the point of living so quietly you made no noise at all? “Oh, Evie, you’re too much,” people said, and it wasn’t complimentary. Yes, she was too much. She felt like too much inside all the time. So why wasn’t she ever enough?”
🗯 “Your mother and I do not approve of drinking. Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?”
“Prohibition? I drink to its health whenever I can.”
🗯 “There is no greater power on this earth than story.” Will paced the length of the room. “People think boundaries and borders build nations. Nonsense—words do. Beliefs, declarations, constitutions—words. Stories. Myths. Lies. Promises. History.” Will grabbed the sheaf of newspaper clippings he kept in a stack on his desk. “This, and these”—he gestured to the library’s teeming shelves—“they’re a testament to the country’s rich supernatural history.”
🗯 “She was tired of being told how it was by this generation, who’d botched things so badly. They’d sold their children a pack of lies: God and country. Love your parents. All is fair. And then they’d sent those boys, her brother, off to fight a great monster of a war that maimed and killed and destroyed whatever was inside them. Still they lied, expecting her to mouth the words and play along. Well, she wouldn’t. She knew now that the world was a long way from fair. She knew the monsters were real.”
About the Author
Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of The Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine; Beauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist; and The Diviners series. She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats. You can find her at…oh, wait. You already did. Nevermind—you are a genius!
Find her at https://libbabray.com/.