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Vilja Reads

I'm a student, so I don't have nearly as much time for leisure reading as I'd like. If I manage to read an entire course book instead of just the assigned chapters, I'll review that here, too.

The Diviners

The Diviners - Libba Bray

The 1920s are in full swing when a series of occult murders rocks New York.


Young Evie O'Neill is sent from Ohio to the Big Apple to cool her heels under the watchful eye of her uncle Will, an academic in charge of a museum of supernatural history. She, her friends, and her Uncle Will turn out to be the last line of defense against a murderer that is beyond the scope of ordinary police work.


I'm new to Libba Bray, who, it seems, has quite a bibliography already. My first impressions were not that favorable. Evie is the epitome of an upper-middle class flapper to the point that she seems, at first, cardboard cut-out. Uncle Will is the stern dry academic with a heart of gold and Sam the pickpocket is the "charming" rascal (I was not charmed; his pursuit of Evie borders on harassment).


Theta, the Ziegfeld girl, is also a cliche of the era through and through, but a much more entertaining one; I became very fond of her. Memphis, who remains tied to the story but stays on the sidelines for most of it, stands out as a black character in a 1920s story written by a white person (rare enough on its own) and as one who is not defined by, in a supporting position to, or completely surrounded by white characters; who exists as a part of a black American culture, family, and society, and is furthermore his own character: A wannabe poet with a hero's heart and a very young man trying to find his place in a confusion of influences. 


The story was rollicking, the plot unwound neatly, and picked up pace once the source of the murders' mythology was revealed. I came to enjoy all of the characters, including Evie, especially when she was her spunkiest. The climax, however pulpy, was deliciously thrilling. Bray seems to have a great grasp of building a story and creating momentum. 


And yet there was a kind of an immaturity to the writing itself. Some could be put down to editorial mistakes, such as a scene where Sam refers to something he only learns later in the conversation, and some are so minor they are barely worth mentioning, such as overused expressions and rather cinematic effects of supernatural manifestations. I might criticize the romance more, had it paired the characters up as neatly as I first thought it would; as it is, I was pleasantly surprised. And, a niggle but it must be mentioned: energy healing is not divining, nor is there any reason to capitalize "diviners" - unless you're marketing a toy line.


So what's the final word? It's very pulpy. The writing itself needs some improvement. The cliches abound - but are delightful. It was a very enjoyable read, and while it took me three months to read the first third (what can I say - I had study books to read, too), the rest was devoured in fairly short order, considering how busy I have been in the meanwhile. The author clearly has a great grasp of storytelling, and I can only hope her wordsmithing improves as well, because I will want to read Part #2 in the series - not for the characters, or the foreshadowed future conflict, but because I want to be this well entertained again.