Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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After devouring the feast that is The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, I was left longing for more books by Libba Bray. Unfortunately, the only book that has so far been published in the UK is The Diviners, so I requested it in my local library. I feel I should tell you that I accidentally read it for 9 hours straight yesterday, forgetting all the things on my to-do list! I don’t normally review series but since the next book isn’t out until August, and I loved it so much, I am reviewing it.

This book is set in the 1920s America – the era of the Great Gatsby, flappers and foilers, the years of Prohibition, the time when American dreams came true… The whole “things are not what they seem” and “all that’s gold does not glitter” themes which are very prominent in “Gatsby” can also be seen in “The Diviners”. Evangeline O’Neill, or Evie, has a gift. She can tell a person’s life story just from touching something that belongs to them. After pulling a stunt like that at a party in her small hometown in Ohio, she ruins a rich guy’s relationship and her parents send her to New York to live with her Uncle Will Fitzgerald who works at The Museum of Creepy Crawlies (unfortunately, entirely fictional). Her trip doesn’t start smoothly – upon arriving to the Big Apple, she gets her money stolen by a handsome devil (not in the literal sense as far as we know) Sam Lloyd who is posi-tu-te-ly smarmy and kind of a douche. However, things turn around once she is in the museum and meets her Uncle, her penpal Mabel and an odd, pensive Jericho who works for Uncle Will. Naturally, what’s a girl to do in 1920s New York? Party, of course! She befriends her glamorous neighbours – Theta, who is a star in the Ziegfield show and her roommate Henry who is a future world-class renowned pianist. However, something puts a damper on Evie’s partying. A series of occult-like murders shake New York City and what victims seem to have in common is strange symbols on them and certain body parts of theirs missing. The NYPD asks Evie’s uncle to consult since he is kinda like the Robert Langdon slash Rupert Giles of the 1920s and knows all there is to know about “freaky stuff”. Evie, Jericho and Mr. God-knows-where-he-came-from-but-Evie-is-convinced-he-is-up-to-no-good Sam Lloyd who suddenly pays a visit to the museum and Uncle Will gives him a job help Uncle Will with the case and Evie’s gift eventually comes in handy.

Meanwhile, a young poet named Memphis is trying to live his life as a normal twenty-something romantic – go to parties, meet girls, and secretly dream about being invited to the infamous poetry clubs and gatherings. However, he is burdened by his own gift that seems to be failing him. Also, there is his brother to think about – is he gifted like Memphis is? Or is he possessed by the Devil? And why is their blind neighbour acting so strange?

What Evie, Memphis, Theta and others don’t know is that they are in more danger than they realise – Naughty John is out and about and he will not stop until The Beast is released…

Libba Bray does not disappoint. Like I said, I spent all of yesterday’s afternoon reading The Diviners, as soon as I acquired it from the library. I didn’t think I would like it at first, because I am not the biggest Gatsby fan, but don’t let that put you off if you feel the same way! The Diviners is amazing. I know from my description it seems that Evie is the centre of the story, but Memphis, Theta, Jericho, Sam and others are just as amazing and interesting as her. It was also the first time since “The Thirteenth Tale” that I’ve been scared out of my wits while reading a book – I jumped when my friend rang the doorbell! Libba Bray is an amazing writer and a master at immersing you into the book’s atmosphere – I felt that way while reading The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, but she does so with The Diviners to an even larger extent. I realised only on page 500 or so that this was going to be a part of a series, which made me immensely happy!

Obviously a lot of research went into the book, and you really do feel like you’re roaming the streets of flappers’ New York. Don’t let Naughty John get you though – you can hide in a speakeasy and watch the dancers while drinking gin! Bray doesn’t brush off the negative aspects of the era either – racism was still very prevalent then and the Americans had a mentality of “America is for Americans” and The Chinese Exclusion Act as well as the Immigration Act were coming into force then. To quote Libba from author’s note – “Often, the monsters we create in our imagination are not nearly as frightening as the monstrous acts perpetrated by ordinary human beings in the aim of one cause or another”. This is one of the many lessons Evie and others learn during their character development, which I felt was somewhat lacking in The Gemma Doyle series. However, Libba more than makes up for it in The Diviners, and I simply cannot wait until August to read “Lair of Dreams”! My rating of The Diviners is 9/10 – would have been 10/10 if I didn’t have to look up all the 1920s jargon and Libba didn’t hint at the possible love triangle!

Favourite character:

I honestly love them all!

Most relatable character:

Evie – I like the way Libba wrote her as a realistic seventeen-year-old woman who doesn’t have all the answers yet and is willing to learn and yet have fun!

Character who gets the most development:

Again, Evie

Favourite relationship:

Petition to nominate Evie, Will, Jericho and Sam as the honorary Scooby Gang – I want a TV series of them solving freaky crimes!

Favourite quote:

“There is no greater power on this earth than story. People think boundaries and borders build nations. Nonsense – words do. Beliefs, declarations, constitutions – words. Stories. Myths. Lies. Promises. History.”
“Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ‘em off for a coupla stones.”

Dreamcast:

Evie O’Neill – Leven Rambin or Jennifer Lawrence
Memphis Campbell – John Boyega
Theta Knight – Kat Dennings
Will Fitzgerald – Anthony Head – he’s so much like Giles I can’t picture him as anyone else
Jericho – Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Sam Lloyd – no idea. Young David Boreanaz is the only one I can picture

Recommendations

You might like “The Diviners” if you liked:
Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray;
The Great Gatsby by F. S. Fitzgerald;
Among Others by Jo Walton;
“Supernatural” and “Pretty Little Liars”
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