4.5 out of 5 stars
Everything about The Diviners is brilliantly played, from the dark, ugly mystery to the hidden magic to the glittering 1920’s setting.
I’ve said before that I don’t have much use for magic in the “normal” world; I prefer my supernatural powers in fantasy settings, or at least in places that are new to me (like Hogwarts or the Shadow World). I should have made a caveat that historical fiction works just as well!
The Diviners tells the story of Evie, a sassy Ohio teen banging on the bars of her young, female, Prohibition-era cage. Evie also has the power of psychometry – she can read objects. This little trick gets her into some hometown trouble, and her punishment is paradise: she’s shipped off to fabulous Manhattan to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult (“the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies,” as it’s known). But wild little Evie isn’t the only thing set loose in New York City. A demon has been awoken, and he’s carving through the city with a series of horrific supernatural murders. When the police turn to Will for help deciphering the crimes, Evie invites herself along.
This book doesn’t pull any punches. The murders are gruesome. I gagged more than once listening to the audiobook. But that’s what makes it so good: the sick, twisted evil at the heart of the story is actually scary. Juxtapose this against the swinging city life Evie chases, and two worlds really collide.
Evie is a heck of a heroine. She’s silly and selfish, but determined to do… what, she doesn’t know. Do something. Be someone. She’s a little con artist and works her charm like an angle. The rest of the cast fits in perfectly: stick-in-the-mud Will, his serious assistant Jericho, fast- talking street thief Will, mousy Mabel, and, my favorite, sharp-tongued showgirl Theda, who the narrator endows the most incredible growl of a “Come on over and see me”-kinda voice.
The story mixes magic, religion, crime and family expertly, but it’s the backdrop that really sells The Diviners. Bray’s Prohibition-era New York shines like the lights on the Ziegfeld stage. We only learn a sliver of what magic exists in this world, and what the characters can do. “It’s coming,” is the constant warning throughout Book One. And frankly, I can’t wait. Adding Lair of Dreams to my TBR. If I go slowly enough through that and Before the Devil Breaks You, maybe I can make them last until Book 4 is released!