This book has been sitting on my shelves for the past four years. If not for a buddy-read with Rachel from Life of a Female Bibliophile, it probably would still be sitting there unread.
We decided to call our buddy-read “Diviners in December” because we scheduled to read it in December. I thought it would make a great seasonal read; for some reason, I thought the story was set in winter and was probably atmospheric with lots of snow and cold. I was surprised not to find that and was even more surprised at how spooky it was at times.
I guess I was aware of this before, back when I learned of the book through Becky’s blog, but some details had faded from memory since then. All I remembered is that the story should be a good read. It was.
YA Historical fiction; paranormal
The Diviners, book 1
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened. (Goodreads)
The story isn’t scary, but the spookiness hits right from the beginning. The story opens with a young woman’s birthday party in New York City. It’s the 1920s, flappers are the fashion — pearls, sequins, bob cuts, — and the champagne is flowing. The party gets a little boring, the hostess decides to liven it by bringing out a Ouija board and the group unwittingly let loose a horror upon the city.
That perked my interest, but what kept me reading were the characters and the mystery that later develops. Shortly after the opening mentioned above, we are introduced to the protagonist, Evie O’Neill, who seems the epitome of the zeitgeist of the period. Evie was fun to read about but upon first meeting her, I found her a bit annoying. She grew on me and eventually she became my favorite character in the book. She livened the story.
I enjoyed her interactions with her uncle, Will, who seems the opposite of her, and Sam, a pickpocket, who strikes me as her equal. Well, he can keep up with her and there is obviously some attraction between them. But considering how this book ends, I wonder how their relationship will develop and hope that a love triangle will not pop up further on.
I was also intrigued by another character (I wouldn’t call him a favorite) and that’s Blind Bill. He seems so warm and unthreatening at first that I was shocked at what he does later in the book and wonder how his character will develop throughout the series. Now he gives me bad vibes. I wonder what his ultimate goal is and if his greed for power will overcome him. I also wonder about the dreams. The story contains several characters who possess supernatural abilities and they all have queer dreams. I wonder why. What do they mean? What is coming?
You see! This book left me with many questions and make me eager to pick up the next one. I think this installment wraps up well, but it plants just enough seeds to pull you to the next book. I also wonder what will become of Evie in the next book since she ended this one with a bang. Again she annoyed me with her antics but at the same time, I admired her and applauded her for her gumption. And besides, the person who should warn her of possible dangers refrains from doing so.
I’ve so far focused on the characters because they interested me the most, but I think Bray did a great job convincing us of the historical period the story is set in. Evie and her friends, especially Theta, and Memphis were key in convincing me that I was reading about the 1920s because of the way they talked, the people and things they referenced, and how they dressed. Bray even included unsavory things of the time such as eugenics and racism and mention of the Ku Klux Klan. I also liked how she dealt with the supernatural, that her characters are diverse in race and sexuality, and the discussions on religion and the development of religion.
The story is very well written and engrossing and the characters are compelling. There’s obviously a lot more to come and to learn, and I look forward to finding them out in the next book.
It’s a good read that left me eager to read the next book.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I think it’s worth the purchase if this is the sort of story that would appeal to you. I’m glad I own a copy because it’s one I can see myself reading again.