My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
It's 1920s New York City. It's flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It's after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things it's the opportunity to party like never before.
For Evie O'Neill, it's escape. She's never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scandal, she's shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she's always wanted: the chance to show how thoroughly modern and incredibly daring she can be.
But New York City isn't about just jazz babies and follies girls. It has a darker side. Young women are being murdered across the city. And these aren't crimes of passion. They're gruesome. They're planned. They bear a strange resemblance to an obscure group of tarot cards. And the New York City police can't solve them alone.
Evie wasn't just escaping the stifling life of Ohio, she was running from the knowledge of what she could do. She has a secret. A mysterious power that could help catch the killer - if he doesn't catch her first.
I have loved Libba Bray's other books, so I had high expectations when I started this one. And in all honesty... I think this is the best one yet!
The Diviners is set in glitzy New York in the 1920s, and I loved how "big picture" the story is- it really gives a slice of New York life from characters from all parts of the city, and from all walks of life. There are so many great characters I can't mention them all, but the author brilliantly gives life to a rebellious 17 year-old girl, a cocky thief, a hardworking African-American teenager, a shy museum assistant, and a sinister serial killer determined to fulfill a religious prophecy.
The fantastic snapshots of the pasts of various characters gave them such a depth, and made the book even more emotional. (Flapper dancer Theta's back story especially made me tear up). And it was interesting how all the characters began with their own stories and then seemed to move together as the plotlines converged.
The portrayal of vibrant 1920s New York is also fabulous- the fashion, the changing attitudes, and the glitz and glamour of it all. I really enjoyed Evie's passion for life, the flappers and the speakeasies, and of course her 1920s lingo. It always made me smile every time she exclaimed that something was "the cat's pajamas", or something similar (I think my favourite one was "the elephant's eyebrows"!)
But it also shows us the darker side of New York, the poverty and the characters who are scraping together a living on the fringes of society. This book has so many layers to it, it has so much depth, and unexpected plot twists and turns, with Libba Bray's trademark ability to weave together a wonderful and complex story that keeps it's witty side element of humour to it as well, with some excellent banter between Evie and Sam, that shows off their larger than life personalities.
Featuring a seance, a serial killer, ghosts, and people with special powers, this book is spine-chillingly creepy in places (terrifying actually!) but it also manages to be heartbreaking, fun, kooky, magical, and a little bit romantic as well.
I don't think a review can do this story justice, because there are so many wonderful things about it- from the fantastic mix of vibrant characters, the depth of the narrative, the beautiful writing that really transports you into the world of the book, and the atmospheric historical New York backdrop. I was mesmerised and enchanted- and despite this being quite a long book at around 600 pages it never dragged or felt dull.
This book makes it into the ranks of my favourite books of all time. I cannot recommend it enough- a dazzling masterpiece of a book.