On the one hand, I wish I had waited until October to read Libba Bray’s The Diviners; on the other, I’m glad I read it early enough that I could tell you how excellent of a Halloween read this is.
The Diviners is a story of murder, ghosts, and understanding who you are.
Teenage flapper Evie O’Neill is sent to 1920s New York City after causing a scandal in her little Ohio town (some punishment, huh? NYC!). Here, she lives with her uncle, Will, who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Shortly after her arrival, a murder occurs that brings Evie to fight with herself (and her uncle) when she realizes the secret she’s hiding could help find the killer.
My first complaint (not really) about this book is that it’s the first in a frickin’ series! I didn’t know that going in, so after finishing the nearly six hundred pages, I was expecting the story to be nicely wrapped up. I was wrong. Wrong! But it was such an enjoyable read that I think I’ll survive. I just want you to know that now, though, in case you’re afraid of commitment at the moment.
You guys, this book was genuinely creepy. I don’t get spooked very easily, but this book did give me chills at times. It had me gripping the covers and shouting, “No! Don’t go in there!” to characters both big and small.
One of my favorite parts of this novel was the way Bray would describe overall scenes, almost like a movie. She would wrap up a scene with a character, and then go on to describe what was going on around the city. It was such an evocative way to help build her world and her story on top of being immediately in the action with characters.
But that’s not to say the characters aren’t fascinating—because, mostly, they are. While the focus is mainly placed upon Evie, a bevy of supporting characters does well to round out this group of “Diviners.”With care and purpose, Bray introduces readers to each person carrying their own secret. Honestly, there was only one character who didn’t seem to have much of a point within the story after awhile, and that’s Evie’s best friend, Mabel. It felt like about a half to two-thirds of the way through, Mabel disappeared. Her purpose—whatever it may have been—was fulfilled, and although she was a tame counterpart to Evie’s adventure-loving nature, I sincerely hope Mabel reappears in the sequel with more prominence. There are a few other characters, as well, who could probably have been combined, rather than being three or four various people. (I’m looking at you, Sister Walker and the two old women living in Evie’s building whose names I don’t even remember.)
Maybe, just maybe, with a few less people to worry about the book could have cut out a few dozen pages, but surprisingly, I didn’t find the book to feel like it was fluffy; the length barely crossed my mind until I was about fifty pages from the end and realized it wasn’t really the end. Before that, I was just excited to be reading, which I always consider to be a good sign from a novel, and even better if it’s clocking in around the six hundred page mark. Bray managed to keep my interest up, even with her various sections of setting descriptions; they were lavish rather than overwrought.
Overall, I was really pleased with this selection. Like I said, I almost wish I could have saved it for a little later as it’s absolutely perfect for the Halloween season, but it’s worth it if I can recommend it to others now. Minus the excessive number of characters, I think Bray did a solid job of creating this story and a world that I look forward to exploring in the next book.