Series: The Diviners #1
Published by Allen & Unwin on July 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Young Adult
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Do you believe there are ghosts and demons and Diviners among us?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 unfurl 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....Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray opens a brand-new historical series with The Diviners, where the glittering surface of the Roaring Twenties hides a mystical horror creeping across the country.
Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series is one of my favourites, for its vivid blend of Victorian noir, historical fiction, and fantasy. The Diviners swept me away in a world of modern beauty, set in 1920’s New York full of speakeasies, flapper girls, and the occult. From the buildings, places, fashion and pastime activities, to the speech of young New Yorkers, the true glory of the book is within its finer detail. Libba Bray has a knack for describing things to the very last detail, and I could accurately picture this world in my head, seeing it come alive in all of its hustle and bustle.
At over 600 pages, The Diviners is a long book and I’d say a big chunk of the book is lost in its’ length. Evie is a young flapper girl new to New York and it’s offerings, and she gets swept up in party life, gossip and dances, as well as stumbling upon the city’s murder mystery which seems to be based on the occult. As interesting as the mystery is, it isn’t a major plot point and is pushed to the side as Evie goes about her partying and initiation as a society girl, resulting in the book moving at an agonising pace.
Evie herself was boisterous and lively, a real go-getter and party girl. Her flaw was how self-obsessed she could be and how whiny she could be at times. She does epitomise the time period as a true flapper girl, and I’ve certainly encountered heroines far worse than Evie. Luckily there wasn’t much of a romance in The Diviners, there were hints at a love triangle here and there but nothing taken too seriously. I’d be curious to see where it goes in the next book. The side characters are truly varied with their own personalities, but there were so many of them I actually had trouble remembering who some of them were when they were mentioned.
“But what was the point of living so quietly you made no noise at all?” – Evie
The Diviners featured a haunting atmosphere with its creepy, supernatural elements: a spooky house, horrible mutilated bodies, a vengeful ghost and superstitions well integrated into the rest of the book. The highlight of the book for me was the concept of The Diviners, people born into the world who have supernatural powers, such as divination, healing and psychometry. It kind of reminded me of the show Heroes, and with just as many loose ends in this respect.
Speakeasy language is used heavily throughout the book. I’ve never actually encountered that sort of language before, so I found it pos-i-tute-ly difficult to picture and never really got used to it.
The Diviners swept me away in a vivid and beguiling world accurately depicting 1920’s New York meshing with supernatural elements. I’m impressed by the amount of history and research that Libba Bray has put into it and it definitely paid off in the detail. Both the strength and downside of the novel is that it’s very long and slow in pacing. If you prefer experiential reads over fast-paced action based plots, The Diviners will transport you to a different place if you slow down and enjoy the experience. It leans towards more of an adult than YA read for the language, detail and amount depth there is, but both types of readers would be able to enjoy it. Overall, it was a journey worth having and I look forward to the next book.
Rating: 4 out of 5