When Evie O’Neill gets sent away from home to New York city to live with her uncle, she couldn’t be more thrilled. Sick of her small town, the bustling, happening city is exactly what Evie needs right now. Except living with her uncle, the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, isn’t exactly a party.
But when a series of brutally murdered bodies start appearing around the city, Evie is right there with her uncle in trying to figure out who’s terrorising the city.
But Evie and her friends aren’t dealing with just any regular murderer; instead, the gruesome violence hints at something larger and more sinister than any of them could’ve imagined, something that has been prophesised and has been biding its time till now.
Can Evie figure out who- or what- the murderer is, before he gets her first?
Writing this review is going to be tough. Like many other Libba Bray fans, I was super excited about this book. As a follow of Bray’s blog, I’ve been hearing about this book for quite some time now; I had almost forgotten about it when it finally came out. After reading the cover copy, I was pretty excited, but the story I received was a lot different from what I’d expected. But let’s start with the good stuff first…
The first word that comes to mind when I think of The Diviners is the city of New York. I know Bray is a native of New York, but wow! The city was very much alive in the story, as it seemed to pulse and breathe right behind the words that Bray had used to capture it. The sights, the smells, the noises, and the dreams and desires of the characters who called the city home, painted such a fantastic picture of New York in the 20’s city that I felt like I was right there, standing there on the sidewalk beside Evie.
From the beginning of the story, it’s obvious that Bray did some research. Heck, a LOT of research, since the language, the setting, the events, the mannerisms of the character, seemed so quintessentially the Jazz Age. I love history, and seeing the 20’s painted with so much meticulous detail by Bray made me giddy with excitement. As someone who has studied American Literature and religion in America at this point, I really enjoyed seeing references to real events in the text, since it gave context to all I learned through university.
Despite that, there was something about the book that prevented me from loving it. Even days later after finishing it, I can’t quite seem to pinpoint exactly what it is, but I think my reserve has to be with the fact that there was just too much going on.
If you’ve seen this book, you’ll know that it is MASSIVE. I’m actually not deterred by the size of books, since usually this means there’s more story to devour, but with The Diviners, I felt like it could have been edited and cut down significantly. The first half was rather slow, and even though I loved the descriptions of the city, after the fifth time, they kind of got annoying. I understand that New York city is this grand and glittering city, especially at this point in history, but I felt like it was idealized excessively throughout the story.
There are also a lot of characters in this story, and while some of their stories are interesting, I was too distracted by all the various threads to enjoy the story completely. Evie is one of the main characters, but despite how much ‘page time’ she’s given, I still didn’t feel like I knew her by the end of the book. She seemed shallow and selfish to me throughout the whole story, and my opinion hadn’t really changed much by the end.
Despite the slow start, the second half of the story gets exciting pretty quickly as Evie and her friends start figuring out the path of the murderer and race towards what seems like a tragic end. The pace pics up considerable towards the end, and this is where I had a hard time putting the book down, since things got increasingly spooky and sinister.
Obviously this is the first in a series, and so the story ends on an open note. Even though I struggled with the story, I’m still interested to see where Bray takes Evie and her friends next.
So for that: 3.5/5.
Thanks for reading,