The Diviners – Libba Bray
Publisher: Atom (Little, Brown)
Release Date: 18th September 2012
Edition: UK hardback, review copy
Other Titles b this Author: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing, Going Bovine, Beauty Queens
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustle of New York City – and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfield 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 realises 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 named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides behind a shocking secret.
And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened...
The Diviners was everything I hoped it would be: creepy, atmospheric, vivid and involving. If you want to jump into the heart of 1920s New York City, this is your book.
Libba Bray has a way with words. There’s no doubt about it. From the very beginning of The Diviners, Evie’s world is created with an atmospheric and sumptuous prose that curls itself around your brain and hangs on so you can slip straight back in again. There’s the hint of threat and danger and the creep-factor only gets stronger and stronger as the novel progresses. Even though at nearly 600 pages, it’s a pretty daunting book, once you’ve read the first few chapters and become immersed in Libba Bray’s flawless writing, you’ll glide through it and never want it to end.
Probably my favourite element of The Diviners is how thoroughly evoked 1920s New York is. Place is very important to me. Like a novel to be grounded in its setting and it to be almost a character in itself. Libba Bray knocks this out of the park. Evie and her friends speak with perfectly nuanced 20s slang and use terms that I’ve never even heard of, but they made the novel and Evie herself feel so, so authentic and genuine.
As well as the slang and expected visits to speakeasies, remnants of the Great War and a general disregard for the Prohibition, The Diviners also includes lots of pop culture references from 1926. There was death of Rudolph Valentino, sex symbol and actor, that traumatised many teenage girls and mentions of his films, the poetry of Langston Hughes and brief references to F Scott Fitzgerald and his boozy lifestyle. In doing this, Libba Bray doesn’t only tell a story, she really brings it to life and thoroughly involves you in it.
The occult and the supernatural is a big part of the novel. I loved how Evie didn’t just discover it after moving to New York and becoming embroiled in the murders, but had experience in it from her special gift. Her gift was pretty cool as well. I really liked that it was subtle and unexpected; it’s an unusual, but extremely cool power. Evie obviously comes under the header of a group called the Diviners, but there was also a plethora of obscure cult and occult mythology and belief that has flooded the US from all of the emigration of different cultures. That was very clever – I loved it.
As the final epic action sequence of The Diviners beckons, the second book in the series is immediately begun to be set up. When Evie finally comes face to face with Naughty John, a new threat is promised and so many questions pop up. What really happened to James? What’s Project Buffalo? And just what is good ole’ Uncle Will hiding...?
With some serious foreshadowing and tantalising questions, Libba Bray left me aching for the next instalment of The Diviners series.
Thank you to Atom for providing me with a review copy.