Mercurial Musings

on books & life

Available September 18, 2012

Libba Bray is one of those writers who paints with words, who creates worlds that blend the mundane and fantastical, drawing readers in to forget the world around them. The Diviners is a beautifully written epic tale of mystery and the paranormal surrounding seemingly ordinary people navigating the tenuous setting that is New York City in the 1920s. Amid flappers, speakeasies, and the Harlem Renaissance is a dark underbelly, a hungry entity known as Naughty John who has returned to fulfill a decades old promise of murder and evil intent.

Deep in the cellar of the dilapidated house, a furnace comes to life with a death rattle like the last bitter cough of a dying man laughing contemptuously at his fate. A faint glow emanates from that dark, foul-smelling earthen tomb. Yes, something moves again in the shadows. A harbinger of much greater evil to come. Naughty John has come home. And he has work to do. (Bray 9 — ARC Version)

To say that I loved this book would be a gross understatement. I was immediately drawn in by Bray’s poetic prose. This book is truly epic and in the hands of a less gifted writer could have easily turned into a convoluted mish-mash of characters and plot holes. However, Libba Bray weaves each character arc and sub plot into a beautiful tapestry, like a master choreographer leading a ballet.

Holding together the main plot of Naughty John’s return are the tales of several young people making their way through Manhattan and Harlem in the backdrop of the 1920s. Evie O’Neill has just moved from Ohio to live with her uncle who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. She is a girl with dreams of making it big in the big city, a small-town girl who desperately wants to be somebody. A girl who is also hiding a secret. She teams up with the feisty Theta, a flapper and star of the Ziegfeld Follies. There is much more to Theta than one would assume, underneath all the glamour and make-up is a girl who is well-beyond her years. Memphis is a Harlem Poet hoping to follow in the footsteps of Langston Hughes, who carries the burden of his mother’s death and father’s abandonment and who does what he must to protect his younger brother Isiah. Sam the pickpocket and Jericho the brawny research assistant round out the cast. Each character is fully developed and their stories are presented to readers at the perfect pace. Little by little, you will find yourself attached to each of the characters — and will feel at the end of the novel like you were right there with them facing great danger and terrible choices.

Libba Bray is a master of many genres, moving easily from the historical paranormal of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy to the satirical Beauty Queens. She is able to incorporate details that enhance the authenticity of the setting without weighing down the prose. The precision of description and inclusion of actual events and people show a tremendous amount of research without ever distracting from the story; indeed, it only serves to draw readers in more deeply and to make the fantastical and supernatural completely plausible. The dialogue is spot on, the slang is never distracting or overdone. Really, the writing here is as close to perfect as it gets; Libba Bray is truly one of the great literary talents of our time.

When the world moves forward too fast for some people, they try to pull us all back with their fear. (Bray 483 — ARC Version)

On the surface, The Diviners is a paranormal mystery. Evie and Co. are helping to solve a series of murders taking place around the city and uncover a secret society called The Brethren and realize there is also a tangible evil, much scarier than any ghost, at work. Evie’s Uncle Will takes on the role of Bobby Singer or Rupert Giles–guiding the group with his knowledge of the supernatural.

He was more like a textbook who occasionally remembered to put on a tie. (Bray 458 — ARC version)

There is so much goodness hidden in the pages of this book that it would be impossible for me to comment on it all. So I will conclude by saying that you cannot go wrong by reading this, there is something for everyone. Lovers of historical fiction, lovers of the supernatural, lovers of great writing, of lyrical prose, none will be disappointed by this book. Already, The Diviners is at the top of my 2012 favorite reads.

One thought on “The Diviners by Libba Bray (I Have So Much Love for This Book)

  1. fakesteph says:

    I really, really enjoyed this one, too! I can't wait for the second book in the series!


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