Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Diviners

7. The Diviners, by Libba Bray

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) I quite enjoyed this book--though it kept me up late more than one night in a row. Bray does an excellent job of creating period atmosphere, and a particularly creepy one at that!

It's the 1920s, and New York City is the hottest place in the world. Evie O'Neill longs to be there more than anything, and when her exasperated parents send her away from Ohio to live with her Uncle Will, the owner of a museum on the occult, she thinks this is the best thing that could have happened to her. But things aren't entirely what they seem in the city. Someone has roused the ghost of long-dead "Naughty John" and he's doing his best to fulfill his role in prophecy to rouse "the Beast" who will bring on the end of the world. And when people start dying, Evie comes to realize that her unique gift of knowing things about a person from touching something they own might help the police solve a particularly evil killer.

Evie is the main character here, but there are a host of other interesting characters, all with their own secrets. Mabel, Evie's best friend, who lives in the shadow of her revolutionary parents (Who are so taken up with various causes that they can't bother much with her). Jericho, a student who works for her uncle but has his own uneasy past. Theta, a Ziegfeld dancer with big dreams and a hidden gift. And Memphis, whose gift couldn't save his mother, but who spends his days dedicated to keeping his younger brother Isaiah safe.

One of the things I loved about this book was how the character's lives intersected in interesting ways, all set against the backdrop of 1920s NYC--the speakeasies, the booze, the jazz, even the quaint lingo. More than just period details, though, Bray smartly weaves in occult mysticism, various religious strains, philosophy (including Nietzsche) and so much more. With all that historical detail, it would be easy to bog the plot down, but Bray creates a terrific plot as well.

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