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.
I found The Diviners on a shelf at the back of the library. A place where I usually don’t go but will visit now more often. It’s the children’s department, but the young adult section is there as well (still classified as children’s literature). There are also a few shelves that house the foreign language books in the young adult category. It’s confusing since there are also many ya books in the English section.
The Diviners was one of the thickest books on the shelf an that caught my attention. I hadn’t heard of Libba Bray before either. So all the more reason to read it, right? The setting, 1920s New York, interested me as well. The era of flappers, jazz, forbidden nightclubs and art nouveau.
(The following section holds limited minor spoilers to illustrate my opinion.)
The title was already an indication that one or more characters would have special powers, Evie showing off hers at the beginning of the book, but it wasn’t the special powers of the characters that made the book interesting. It’s the case of a murderer, the Pentacle Killer. Evie, her uncle Will and his assistant Jericho help the police to catch the killer and Evie uses her powers to find out the truth about these murders.
Evie is an adorable lead character. She’s what I expect a flapper to be. Looking for fun, outspoken, stubborn and ambitious. She can also be selfish, but she wants her friends to be happy as well. Throughout the book, she shows her courage and quick thinking. Her growth as a person is subtle, but it’s definitely there. Bray has written her elegantly as she grows up and learns about how the real world works.
The book has multiple points of view and some of them are flashbacks. They explain more about the victims or killer. Bray uses them well to create tension and cliffhangers to keep you reading.
I do have to warn you. This book has some horror elements, but none of the gruesome details or violence. It’s implied, which makes sense since it’s for a younger audience. But if you have an overactive imagination, you might want to skip reading this before bedtime.
The worldbuilding is magnificent. Bray has done some amazing research to create this twister version of New York. The full research list is no her website. Bray has done a great job integrating her story and the supernatural elements in the already fascination history of New York in the Roaring Twenties.
I gave The Diviners five stars for its excellence on all fronts. Bray is a terrific storyteller and I’d love to read more by her hand.