Diviners by Libba Bray, review by Melissa Fox
About 10 years ago, Libba Bray wrote a wonderful book called A Great and Terrible Beauty. It put spunky female characters in a Victorian setting and gave them mystical powers and adventures that were creepy and death-defying. Then Bray moved on to other things, and did them well, but fans of her original series were kept wondering: when would Bray get back to doing what she does best: giving us great characters in settings that give you goosebumps.
With The Diviners, Bray has returned to her roots, updating it only to give us 1920s New York City instead of the Victorian era. Seventeen-year-old Evie O'Neill hates her small-town Ohio life, mostly because she's a "modern" '20s woman, and hates being shackled by the small-town morals. So, when she finally crosses the line and gets shipped off to live with her uncle in Manhattan, Evie ecstatic.
She thinks life in New York City will be all roses and parties and "hooch" and it is until her stoic uncle -- the director of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult -- gets involved in the investigation of some grisly murders that are tied to the occult, Evie's life -- and that of her friends -- takes a sinister turn.
While The Diviners looks intimidating, coming in at just under 600 pages, it's really an engrossing read. Bray not only knows how to ratchet up the tension and create a spooky, eerie mood, she knows how to write characters. Evie is spunky, nosy, and a pathological liar, but you can't help but love her. And there's a whole cast of characters to enjoy as well: from the tortured Ziegfeld star, Theta; to the conflicted daughter of union
supporters, Mabel; to the charismatic thief, Sam; to the secret-carrying Jericho; to the African American bookie runner, Memphis; they were all characters I wanted to spend time with and get to know. Bray is weaving a huge tapestry here, one in which I found myself sinking into and relishing.
It's not a perfect book; it does go on a bit too long, trying to set up the next one in the series. But it's more than worth it for the things that Bray does well.