Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Release date: September 1st 2012
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, Ziegfield girl, 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.
I won't lie. I have been a bit of a fangirl of Libba Bray's writing ever since I got my hands on her Gemma Doyle series (a trilogy focused on a group of friends who dabble in magic and live in an all-girls boarding school in Victorian times, to put it in an absurd simplicity). After all, this is an YA writer who is neither afraid of trying out and mingling different genres (historical, romance, comedy, supernatural, fantasy, satire,... this lady has done it all), nor of tackling all sorts of issues: substance abuse, eating disorders, racism, homophobia, sexism, etc, etc. And all the while creating characters, relationships and worlds of incredible realism.
As you can imagine, I was nothing but anxious to get my hands on The Diviners. The fact that the premise included the roaring 20's, the occult and crime only augmented my excitement. I was not disappointed.
The Diviners is a book like no other I have ever read. It begins with the introduction of Evie O'Neill, a young woman in boring town who wants nothing more than to go to New York City and shine in the spotlight. Her wish is granted after she divulges a secret of a rich boy at a party, leaving her parents with the only option of expatriating her. Evie is too big for such a small town, and they fear her staying there will only do her more harm.
Armed with the ability to read memories from people's belongings and a wish to make the world her oyster, Evie is shipped off to her uncle Will. Will runs a dying museum devoted to the occult, and it is he that the police seek when a series of odd crimes unfold in the Big Apple. Evie, of course, does not take long to make herself useful in the investigations. What she discovers is more than what she bargained for.
While the investigations occur and Evie tries to make the most out of the big golden city, Bray introduces us to multiple of other characters with secrets and goals of their own. Glamorous Theta Knight, a Ziegfield girl with an undisclosed past; friendly Mabel Rose, daughter of acclaimed activists, who longs to step out of the shadow; careful Jericho Jones, Will's young companion, whose silence stems from more than his personality; heart-breaker Sam Lloyd, a thief with an unknown purpose and a sharp tongue; hopeful Memphis Campbell, a poet whose powers match the love for his little brother; batty old Miss Adelaide and Miss Lillian, the neighbours who speak in confusing riddles; and many other unforgettable characters. Oh, and of course, one cannot forget our dear Naughty John's invaluable insights...
Indeed, throughout the book, Bray jumps from one character view point to the other, all distinct in speech and thought. Every change in point of view is welcomed, even if the last chapter ended in a cliffhanger. It is harder to pick a favourite point of view in The Diviners than it is in most books. I, at least, have none, which is a first.
If that was not enough, her language usage is positutely reminiscent of that of the 20's, funny in the comedic moments, ruthless when criticism of society comes, and chilling when the killer comes a-knocking (sidenote: if you scare easily, don't read this book before bed). It is also incredibly vivid. Just like in The Great Gatsby, you can see the gold and the feathers. Well, until it is all splattered by thick blood. In short, nothing but perfect for the genre.
A fast paced book and a true page turner, the 600 pages are thousands of pages short. Before I realized it, the end of the book punched me. I was left wide-eyed at all that was unanswered and longing to step back into that world. Ending the book so soon was a crime, surely. But thank heavens for the internet. It informed me that this is the first in a series, and I could breathe again. Breathing is a hard thing to do while reading The Diviners.
But that is no wonder. Mere breathing might attract Naughty John's whistling and believe me, you do not want to see him put his apron on...
The book in a quote
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 her 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.