Second Look: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Libba, old girl, you are the cat’s meow.

I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on a copy of Libba Bray’s upcoming release when Ash and I went to BEA earlier this month. I started reading it on the bus home, and have been hooked ever since.

The Story: It’s 1926, and Evie O’Neill has been sent to New York City to live with her Uncle Will as punishment for some poor behavior in her sleepy Ohio hometown. Banished to the bright lights, speakeasies, and revue shows in the greatest city in the world. Punishment? Pshaw! For Evie, this “punishment” is the most wonderful thing to ever happen. At least until the dead bodies start appearing. The police enlist the help of Uncle Will, curator of the “Museum of Creepy Crawlies” (officially known as The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult), to assist in the investigation. Evie finds she can also help using a special -and very secret- gift: she can “read” objects just by holding them and conjure up images of the owner’s life. Evie, Uncle Will, Jericho (her uncle’s assistant), and Sam (a con artist working at the museum) just might be able to figure this thing out… as long as the murderer, known as Naughty John, doesn’t set his sights on them first.

The Low Down: Well. Where to begin. If you’ve ever read any of Libba Bray’s books before, you know she’s a very versatile writer (see: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Going Bovine, and Beauty Queens), not to mention an incredibly strong writer with a gift for amazing storytelling. The Diviners is what you would get if someone injected Stephen King into Chicago, shook it up, and let it percolate. Bray’s imagining of life in the 1920’s makes me feel like I took a time machine back to the Jazz Age, and the supernatural elements are outstanding and insanely creepy. The story is well structured and has a satisfying conclusion, despite leaving some of the storyline and character relationships open ended to ensure there will be a sequel.

Speaking of characters, Evie is a very strong female lead. She’s a flapper through and through, and lives for the high life and the night life. She can be a little haughty, and her bossiness sometimes rubbed me the wrong way, but that made her character that much more realistic. She’s not without her faults, but is determined to live the life she wants. Also starring in The Diviners are Evie’s old friend and pen pal, Mabel, and Theta, an up and coming starlet who’s hiding a major secret of her own along with her “brother” Henry (who is a current nominee for my Fictional Boyfriend List). Theta also makes the acquaintance of Memphis, who has a special gift of his own along with his little brother, Isaiah.

The Bottom Line: The Diviners is filled with a large cast of well rounded characters in a rich setting, not to mention a heaping dose of bootleg liquor and  supernatural horror. It may be a bit lengthy, but it’s also completely addicting. Capping out at a little over 600 pages, the fast-moving suspense and characters’ witty, sharp tongues will keep you eagerly soaking up page after page. But be warned… the sound of someone whistling will never be the same.


The Diviners will be released on September 18, 2012. It is reported to be the first in a trilogy, AND Paramount Pictures has already acquired film rights. 


If you think you’ll like The Diviners, you’ll probably also like:
Bliss by Lauren Myracle (A girl in the 1960’s befriends a classmate who may or may not be involved in cult-like violence similar to the Charles Manson murders that are all over the news. It’ll definitely leave you feeling creeped out.)  

If you love the Roaring Twenties, you may like:
Vixen (The Flappers series) by Jillian Larkin

If you’re a historical fiction fan, try:
A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle trilogy) also by Libba Bray (1800’s)
The Luxe (Luxe series) by Anna Godbersen (turn of the 20th century)
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher (1940’s)
What I Saw and How I Lied
by Judy Blundell (1950’s)

Strings Attached by Judy Blundell (1950’s)


8 thoughts on “Second Look: The Diviners by Libba Bray

  1. Candice says:

    Although I’ve read the Gemma Doyle series, I haven’t read too much of Libba Bray’s books. Which I think is pretty sad because I loved the Gemma Doyle series! This one looks fantastic and sounds really great. I love a good paranormal mystery and have lately been a huge fan of the 20s! Great review!

  2. twigsforpigs says:

    Oh, my librarian just recommended it to me! She said she’d met Libba at a party specifically celebrating the release of The Diviners…(she was giddy, by the way. Completely giddy.) But she said that it was so scary, but so good. And to not read it at night. Or near open windows. I’m easily terrified by just about anything, so I’m a little (VERY) nervous about reading it… (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which is a fantastic book btw, just about scared me out of my wits before I cracked the cover open and realized it wasn’t so bad…)

    Your thoughts?

    • Katarina Karenina says:

      Truthfully, THE DIVINERS is CREEPY. It’s not that the book itself is scary, but the scenes of the ritualistic murders made not want to walk alone at night… not like I do that a lot anyway, but you know what I mean. I haven’t read MISS PEREGRINE, but Ash did and is reading THE DIVINERS now, though. She may have some better input on that. :) All in all, I give major props to DIVINERS. Naughty John suitably creeped me out, which (personally) I appreciate in a book. Give it the first few chapters and see how you feel about it… that would probably be enough to give you an idea of what to expect and to set the tone for the rest of the book. But read it during the daytime, just to be safe!

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