I read this the year it came out and loved it. 1920s and supernatural, what’s not to love? It’s odd that just the other day I was thinking about this book, wondering if the sequel was out or if I should just reread the Gemma Doyle trilogy. I checked NetGalley to see if there was anything that sounded interesting, but any other book flew out of my head when I saw that the sequel was being offered as an advanced reading copy! I knew it had to be my next read. So instead of continuing the next mammoth of a book in George R.R. Martin’s series, I’m rereading The Diviners so I can start the second with the story fresh in my mind.
Evie is a girl who believes that she is better than her Ohio hometown. After a particularly bad mistake that labels her again as “that awful O’Neill girl,” Evie is carted off to New York to live with her Uncle who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. She’s a dreamer, and believes that New York will give her everything she needs in order to make her dreams come true. She can be anyone, and she wants to be noticed. She’s always felt too large for her small hometown; hopefully New York will be a better fit. It’s too bad that her scholarly uncle doesn’t exactly approve of her late night romps about the town.
Evie talks with the vibrancy of a young woman growing up in the 1920s. There’s a lot of flapper slang in the book and it makes Evie’s voice very distinct. Although she can be annoyingly bubbly at first, she has to mature fast when her uncle is brought on as a consultant for a crime because of his knowledge of the occult. I really appreciate the effort Libba Bray went in creating the 1920s world of flappers, Prohibition, and the occult in The Diviners. The 1920s are a particular era that I really love, and adding the element of the supernatural was a perfect way to get me to pick up this book. With a cast of characters that include a numbers runner from Harlem, a thief who is itching for justice, a chorus girl who is running from her past, as well as a mysterious former ward of Evie’s uncle, The Diviners refused to let me put it down, even the second time around. These characters stand out from the page. You learn who they are through their actions and what they do or do not share with the other characters, not in a word dump the first time you meet them. They change, but they still have their main desire that drives them. Often at the center of that desire is their gift.
The setting of 1920s New York was well researched and vivid on the page. It acts as a beautiful, glittery contrast to the starkness of the mystery presented in The Diviners‘ pages; bloody and disturbing, even those hardened by age have a hard time stomaching it. Although it may be the time of Prohibition, it is also the time of the Beast. The mystery of what that means for Evie and the city’s inhabitants slowly builds, hints dropping in nearly every chapter as the terror grows. Libba Bray knows how to build a mystery that forces me to stay up until the early hours of the morning in order to see the end. It doesn’t hit you over the head like a bag of bricks, like other young adult mystery novels do. It keeps you guessing, instead of allowing you to see its secrets coming from a mile away. It helps too, that The Diviners has several smaller mysteries interspersed between the points of the main one.
It seems like every character has their own mystery that it teased in The Diviners. While some of them are solved by the end of the book, others are not. It allows for some great character building. I hope that more answers will be given in the next book. The Diviners may focus on Evie most of the time, but the other characters are also interesting and real. I wanted to spend time with them all. There is romance between them, but it is gradual and not the focus on the story. The Diviners isn’t a secret romance story wrapped in the guise of a mystery. I’m very glad I have the next one in the series in my hands.