Saturday, December 29, 2012

'The Diviners'

Imagine that it's lunch time, and you're sitting in the breakroom where you work.  Open in front of you is a book so intriguing, so spellbinding that you don't even taste the food you're putting into your mouth.

That was me, for two days.  

The spellbinding book was 'The Diviners' by Libba Bray, author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy.

It's a big book; a long story; but one well worth telling.  It's set in an age I love so dearly:  New York during the Roaring Twenties, when gin was the booze of choice (and also illegal; it was Prohibition), and Rudolph Valentino, the famous silent movie star, had just died.  It was a time of fearless young women and brash young men.  It was exciting and everything was possible...but just around the corner was the Depression.

Lively seventeen year-old Evangeline ('Evie') O'Neill, at the center of a scandal in her stodgy, boring town of Zenith, Ohio, is banished to her Uncle Will's home in New York.  Although her parents consider it a big punishment, Evie sees it as anything but:  Experiencing independence in one of the most exciting cities in the world.  But her uncle, the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (a.k.a. 'The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies'), has no desire to show his niece around.  He is obsessed with the occult, and soon his help is required in helping catch a killer who proclaims that the end of the world is near at hand and The Beast will soon appear.

But Evie, unbeknownst to her uncle, has a special gift that could help catch the murderer.  And, as she soon discovers, there are others who are just as 'special'.  

Reading about these gifted individuals brought to mind an almost primitive version of the Justice League, but without the capes, golden lassos, and invisible airplanes.  These Jazz Babies had to rely on their gifts and wits, but were sometimes unable to save some close to them from gruesome ends.

This new book is a bit of a departure for Ms. Bray.  I found her Gemma Doyle books a bit more serious.  But 'The Diviners', despite the very dark undertone and pulse-pounding action, conveys vibrant youth and resilience during a time where 'anything goes'.  You experience the knowledge that good will always triumph over evil, that anything is possible, despite the allure of stardom, parties, and dancing.  Libba Bray is a very, very good storyteller; her characters, good and bad, are brought to vivid life.  

Although I hated that the story had to end, I realized that it really didn't...

...the set-up for the next book lingers on the brain, there to entice us.

And that is Libba Bray's special gift.

'The Diviners' is published by Little, Brown and Company.  Available in bookstores and your public library.

No comments: