Here’s my review for a title that completely blew me away. It’s The Diviners, by Libba Bray.
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This book firstly came to my attention because of the million beautiful photos of its gorgeous hardcover edition. The gold details over the black background almost make me salivate every time I see it (not even kidding). So, when a read-along was announced, I knew it was my time to finally read it.
Libba Bray is one of the most appraised contemporary YA novelists. Her other works consist on the Gemma Doyle trilogy and Beauty Queens. This was my first time reading one of her books and I was highly recommended this last one. I’ll probably read it too.
It’s 1926 and New York City is the center of the Jazz Age. Suddenly, a lot of people start to appear dead, with some parts missing. When the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult gets involved, details of the supernatural start to become related to the case. It’s up to Evie O’Neil, a girl running from a bad “party trick” in Ohio, to solve the mystery threatening the city. Although this is the main focus of the story, the POVs alter mainly between this girl and Memphis Campbell, a boy who runs the gambling numbers for a mobster king. There’s also focus on a few other characters, connected all by the same thing: they’re Diviners, a group of people with very special gifts.
I went almost totally blind into this one. Right from page one, I was hooked. This book is massive (containing not less than 700 and reaching 900 in some editions!) and I went through it all in less than a week! It’s a really big thing for me. I could not pull it down or even stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading.
The thing that made this extremely special was the special care the author has to make it feel and sound exactly like it would to experience the real 1920’s. The characters talk exactly like they should, with the characteristic lingo all in place. For more than once I was transported to all those underground clubs and theatres of the Prohibition Act. The setting up of the world was absolutely flawless. I may be biased though, since I absolutely love the Jazz Age. I wished I lived at the center of it, filled with great music and art deco. Just imagining New York in those lights makes my heart stop!
As I’ve said, this story is told through several POVs. All the characters, main or secondary, are really well structured, completely unique from each other and, most importantly, diverse. There’s people of several races, social backgrounds and even religions. Of course there’s social issues and stereotypes inflicted in and to those characters but that makes the portrait of the times more real (even though some things are never acceptable). I’ve seen a lot of criticism related to the confusion between POVs but I didn’t felt it, personally. Of course that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who is who, specially in the beginning but it all makes sense once there’s progress made in the read.
I do have to agree that the ending isn’t the most satisfying of all time. It concludes the main plot well and it sets ups things for the next book. It’s nothing that amazing or unexpected though. I guess there weren’t a lot of mind blowing ways to end it so I was pleased with the one chosen.
Even with all its flaws, this book absolutely swept me off my feet! I wasn’t expecting such a thing so I consider this book one of the most pleasant surprises of this year. It has a fantastic story, amazing characters and it keeps you wanting more and more, even at the end! Historical fiction and supernatural aren’t genres I’m particularly familiar with but they’re definitely growing on me! If there were more amazing mixtures of these two, like in this title, I’ll probably keep digging it up.
I don’t want to rush into conclusions but this might be one of my new favourite books ever. If not, definitely of the year. I’ll recommend it to everyone I know because it’s simply A++. I cannot wait to own a physical copy of it (specially that gorgeous hardcover) and read Lair of Dreams, the sequel that comes out this month still (I requested an ARC, wish me luck in being approved)!
If you want a fresh and original read, pick this up! If you like a good mystery, beautiful 1920’s New York City and ladies in bobs and sequin dresses, I more strongly recommend it.
Here’s my favourite quote:
Uncle Will frowned. “Didn’t they teach you how to go about research in that school of yours?”
“No. But I can recite ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ while making martinis.”
“I weep for the future.”
“That’s where the martinis come in.”
See you next time!