10:15 am EDT, June 14, 2013

Hypable book review: ‘The Diviners’ by Libba Bray

The Diviners is a suspense-filled murder mystery of the supernatural variety with a dash of new friendships and a sprinkle of young love, all against the backdrop of 1920s New York.

libba bray the divinersEvie O’Neill has always been told she is a little too much. All she wants it to be noticed, to have a good time, and to be enough for her grieving parents. But things don’t go according to plan, and Evie is unceremoniously sent away.

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Now Evie is in New York, living with her resolutely impersonal Uncle Will and his strange assistant Jericho. Not to mention, she has to work in Will’s failing Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, which isn’t exactly what Evie had in mind when she came to New York. It’s a good thing she has her best pal Mabel, and newly found friends Theta and Henry to take her dancing and drinking. And then there’s Sam, who just won’t leave her alone.

But Evie has a special talent, one that has landed her in trouble before. So when she and her Uncle are drawn into a strange series of murders, will she be able to use her talent to crack the case? And what if she isn’t the only one who has something special that they are hiding? And what are these “Diviners,” anyway?

‘The Diviners’ review:

Libba Bray’s The Diviners is a roaring mystery that you will not be able to put down. With her typical disregard for genre distinctions, Bray manages to combine elements of mystery, supernatural, suspense, horror, romance, coming-of-age, historical and fantasy – and somehow come out with a wonderfully cohesive narrative.

Evie might take centre stage, but she is supported by a brilliant group of characters who we imagine will come into play in the next book. Bray’s characters are funny, complicated, sometimes unlikeable, and always relatable, despite their context.

There is a sense that Bray is merely shining the spotlight on Evie, bringing her story into sharp relief while her friends exist in the dimly lit surroundings. Yet there is clearly a detailed story for every one of these characters, and Bray could at any moment spin the spotlight onto them and come up with a story that is just as detailed and compelling as Evie’s.

The Diviners is also an enchanting exercise in world building. Bray skilfully brings to life the roaring ’20s with her portrayals of the age of prohibition, the underground speakeasies, and the glamorous Ziegfeld girls.

Many authors would have left it at that, but Bray doesn’t underestimate her audience with such a rosy picture. Instead she also weaves in the casual yet rampant racism, the international political climate, and the philosophical debates of the era. And all without drawing your attention to the fact that you may be (gasp) learning. She’s certainly a sneaky one.

The book looks intimidating, at approximately 580 pages – but believe us when we say you will have no problem getting through it. Instead, your problem will be putting it down. Just be grateful that Bray has given us almost 600 pages of story – because we have to wait until 2014 for the next part.

The Diviners is Book 1 in Libba Bray’s new series. Book 2 is currently untitled, and is due out in 2014.

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