Libba Bray’s The Diviners is the best book I’ve read this year. From its gripping opening pages to its thrilling conclusion, The Diviners grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. This book has everything I love in a story: great characters mystery, suspense, supernatural powers, and a freakishly diabolical villain.
Typically, when you think ‘urban fantasy’, you won’t conjure images of 1920 era New York City. Ms. Bray’s decision to set her book here is both original and ingenious. The Roaring twenties was a unique era in American history. Fresh off the Great War, the United States spent a decade releasing the national tensions that war created. Women in particular gained some measure a freedom, shortening their skirts, cutting their hair, and embracing their sexual power. Into this world, enters Evangeline, Evie, O’Neill, a liberated, ‘modern’ seventeen-year-old girl from the midwest. Evie has a secret power, one that gets her exiled from Ohio and sent off to live with her uncle in New York. Unbeknownst to Evie, she’s not the only one with powers. Many others exist, and she’s about to meet a few of them. When a series of brutal, ritualistic murders rock New York, the city’s lead investigator calls Evie’s uncle, Will Fitzgerald, to consult on the case. Turns out Uncle Will is a paranormal expert of sorts, having run a museum on the subject for years. He discovers an awakening evil and enlists Evie’s help to stop it.
While none this sounds particularly original, let me assure you it is. Ms. Bray skillfully takes this age-old premise and spins it into a grand and golden yarn. She goes all in, using the time period’s unique slang, fashion, and giltz to create a living, breathing portrait of New York during prohibition. Her characters live and breathe it, especially Evie. She’s the glue holding it all together. Bright and vivacious, she posses the smarts and savvy to turn almost any situation to her favor. Her conversations are often hilarious, and her personality is infectious. She’s easily the most interesting and charismatic character I’ve read in a long time. Her supporting cast is just as good, each character drawn with a distinct voice and personality. They play off each other beautifully no matter the situation, their dialogue fluid and natural.
I loved The Diviners; I loved every word. Reading it made the world fall away. I was sad to finish it. I wanted it to keep right on going. How often can you say that about a book?