The Diviners, by Libba Bray [The Diviners #1]

  • Title: The Diviners (The Diviners #1)
  • Author: Libba Bray
  • Publisher: Little, Brown for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 12th September 2012
  • Rating: ★★★★★

9780316126113_p0_v1_s260x420The Diviners, by Libba Bray, invites us to a sumptuous big city adventure in 1920s New York, where Evie O’Neill is soon to be the talk of the town.

Flapper and party girl Evie’s unique talent might have seen her ushered from small town Ohio to the big city by her socially-conscious parents, but it seems that the very same unique ability will be what saves the day from unspeakable evil.

All she did was tell the truth—and happen to smear the good name of the town’s golden boy in the process. So when she refused to apologise and take back the accusation, her parents decided to ship her off to stay with her Uncle Will in New York until the dust settles. But Evie is used to not being what they want her to be.

And Evie doesn’t see this exile as punishment. Rather, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her.  New York! She’ll snap that up in a second if it means getting out of boring Ohio. Sure, she’d rather not know that her parents would sooner ship her off for a few months than stand by their daughter, but since the death of her elder brother in the war, Evie is used to being second best. She’s always too much for her parents and yet never enough.

Everyone, even her friends, is always telling her that Evie O’Neill is just too much.

Evie is looking forward to a few months in the city, where she can party all night and make a name for herself as the hottest Sheba in town. Who knows what can happen? This is New York! She has her sights set high and intends to make the most of this exile. Who needs small town Ohio anyway? Not Evie O’Neill. And to boot, she’ll be reuniting with her friend with whom she exchanges letters, so it’s not as if she’ll be alone. It’s all jake for Evie as she heads off to the city.

When she arrives and finds Uncle Will as the curator of a museum of supernatural whatsits and the occult, she is a little sceptical, but soon flourishes (perhaps a little too much) under Will’s very loose rule. Soon Evie makes new friends and starts to really live it up in New York. Between the awkward acquaintance of her uncle’s assistant, Jericho, and the confident advances of a thief who seems to always be there when she turns around, Evie will never have a dull moment.

But the glitz and glamour doesn’t last for long and before she knows it, not only is there talk at the museum of Diviners—people with unique gifts, just like Evie—but a string of bizarre ritualistic murders take place and soon Will is called in to consult.

Is it really possible that here in New York she can find out the truth about her talent? And if so, what will that mean? She’s never given it much thought, except to use it for cheap party tricks when the limelight slides away for a second too long—and look where that got her last time.

There’s something undeniably strange about the murders and soon the city is rattled. But no one more than Evie. Try as she might, she can’t shake the notion that something is very wrong. As she follows her uncle with the investigation, Evie soon puts her talents to use. That’s when things really get strange.

Little does Evie know that an evil has been released—and it has work to do.

Evie is convinced the murders have a link with the supernatural and the almost-biblical scriptures left behind at each scene don’t disagree. The deeper into the case Evie and her uncle dig, the stranger things get. Between ghosts and cults and strange old houses, it seems unlikely that there will ever be a straight answer to the case. The bodies keep turning up, each in accordance with a different verse from the scripture that doesn’t make much sense.

With the uncanny approach of Solomon’s comet and the murders drawing towards what seems like a grand unseen finale, Evie will have to use her wits and her talents to get to the bottom of things. There is an evil afoot in New York city. Evie is the life of the party, but if she doesn’t hurry and lay this evil to rest, she may well end up the death of it. Evie might not be the only Diviner in New York—but she’s the only one who can get to the bottom of these killings.

The Diviners is the first of a wickedly brilliant series, where we’re treated to an authentic and addictive 1920s New York, all tangled up with the chilling and gripping paranormal events that will change Evie O’Neill forever.

It’s astounding to sit here and say how inclusive a book set in the 20s is, and yet here I am. There is more representation (people of colour; sexuality) in this book than half the books I read and review. Effortless and authentic, Bray paints so clear and strikingly accurate a picture of New York that you all but melt into the story as you go. The Diviners is populated by wonderful characters who are immediately worthy of attachment and investment.

It’s difficult to say just how fantastic The Diviners is—and that’s not even starting on the absolutely stellar performance of January LaVoy in the superb audiobook.

This book is funny and creepy and gripping. It effectively marries both the grotesque and chilling elements of urban supernatural horror, whilst presenting a unique slice-of-life adventure into the heart of Prohibition-era New York. Between speakeasies, flappers and jazz, we’re treated to the thrill of numbers runners on the streets and the discomfort of the darker underbelly of social politics, racism and homophobia, however subtly. It’s still there.

The bright young things Evie befriends in The Diviners are varied and inclusive and being partway through the second book, Lair of Dreams, I can only say that it gets better. If at all possible. Which it is.

Evie is a flapper who seeks the limelight, but beneath all the makeup and glitz, she is a damaged girl still mourning the death of her brother and the loss of her parents’ love at the passing of their favourite child. She is seeking more than just a murderer on the streets of New York: she’s looking for the most important thing of all. Herself.

Even if you think that the setting isn’t for you—think again and let yourself be lured in by the promise of The Diviners being the most gripping, chilling page-turner of a supernatural crime urban fantasy (yes, all those things!) you’ll read any time soon.

JBI 5 star chibiBray has nailed the 20s and her writing is just the cat’s pyjamas. This book was so, so, so, very good. I loved every single little detail of this book and definitely can’t sing the praises of the audiobook enough. If you want excitement and a really good and gripping and clever supernatural murder fantasy, then The Diviners needs to be right at the top of your reading list.

It’s just bloody wonderful and I loved every damn second of it.


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