Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Release Date: Available
I’ll try to keep this short, because listing all the synonyms my thesaurus contains for “wonderful” would probably bore you. This 1920s tale is set amid speakeasies and movie palaces during Prohibition. The third-person narrative of the story switches between the four central characters, Evie, Jericho, Theta, and Memphis, although Evie’s stories takes precedence. Evie is headstrong and impulsive, flirty and just a touch selfish, and altogether “just too much” for Ohio. A desperately “modern girl,” she winds up living in New York City after a drunken misuse of her (supposed to be secret) supernatural gift. There, Evie stays with her uncle, the curator of the “Museum of the Creepy Crawlies,” and in the same building as her long-time pen-pal Mabel. While befriending chorus girl Theta Knight, devil-may-care pickpocket Sam Lloyd, and reclusive scholar Jericho, all of whom are wonderfully three-dimensional characters, Evie also becomes involved in helping her uncle and the police track down what appears to be a serial killer whose victims are left with occult symbols.
Jericho has his own shady past, and well-kept secrets, but to tell them would spoil an excellent story.
Theta lives in the same building as Evie, too, with her brother (or, at least, that’s what they tell the landlord), Henry DuBios IV. Theta is a Ziegfeld girl, and Henry plays piano for the shows. Theta’s story intersects with that of Memphis, a numbers runner from Harlem, a secret poet, and an ex-healer. Their stories are laced with the tough issues that transcend the decades between when this book takes place and current times, everything from racism to rape to poverty to abortion.
The whole of the book is interspersed with fantastically believable slang which wonderfully captures the zeitgeist of the era, and thanks to Libba’s marvelous pacing, never once in the six hundred pages did I feel the story drag. Even the tensest scenes were riddled with her lavish descriptions. Though the book is only the first of a series, it still has it’s own plot arc and doesn’t rely on a melodramatic cliffhanger to compel readers to eagerly pick up the next installment. It’s charming characters and poetic prose do that for it. This book is, as Evie might say, pos-i-tute-ly the berries.
Review by Sami Mae
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