I’m not typically a huge audiobook fan. However, I’ve been getting into podcasts more lately, so I decided to give audiobooks from the library another shot. I checked out Libba Bray’s The Diviners, read by January LaVoy and I absolutely think it was better than reading the actual book to myself.
First of all, January LaVoy is one of those narrators who can do male and female voices with no trouble at all. She can do accents and inflections that sound completely natural, which in a book whose genre falls pretty squarely in the “horror” scene is pretty amazing. Horror can be hard to play off, especially in a story with an ensemble cast and one third person narrator, and LaVoy’s work is flawless.
So, that being said, even without LaVoy as a narrator, I’d recommend The Diviners to you if you wanted to read the regular old book. First off, nobody does creepy period work quite like Libba Bray. I read the Gemma Doyle Trilogy in college and it gave me weird dreams for weeks. The Diviners is no different in terms of Bray’s talent, it’s just set in 1920s New York City, rather than a Victorian boarding school for young women:
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened. (summary from Goodreads)
The story itself is great. Bray has done her research and LaVoy’s narration of the audiobook paint a gorgeous picture of 1920s NYC. I appreciate that Bray has included a somewhat more diverse cast in this first book and I’m interested to see what happens as the story develops. It’s sometimes hard in the first book in a series of books with an ensemble cast to get a good read on all of the main characters, but I feel like Bray does a nice job giving us enough to get to know all the characters enough to stay interested.
However, it is nearing Halloween and I’ve mostly been focusing on spooky reads this month, so I should tell you that one of the main reasons I wanted to recommend this book is that it is so, so scary. Bray chose to follow the killer through the murders in the book, so we don’t just get the “Scooby gang” perspective. I’m going to go ahead and little an itsy-spoiler(ish) slip and tell you that you’re going to be so sad when each victim dies. Bray is in it to break your heart.
There’s no gore or jump scares, it’s a slow burn of creepy mystery that will keep you thinking, but probably won’t have you starting awake with nightmares. I don’t have a high threshold for scariness, so if you’re accustomed to Stephen King-level horror, you probably won’t find this very scary. I thought it was pretty scary though, so if you’re into medium-level scary books this will probably work for you.
One of the things I found most attractive about the book, other than its scare-factor, was that its main character, Evie is a really human person. She likable and unlikable at turns. She does stuff that she shouldn’t, but she does stuff she should too. And most of all, she’s fairly self aware. She seems to know that she can be selfish and off-putting, but like most young people, isn’t quite sure how to work things out. I love that Evie knows her way around an apology and while she definitely steps in it from time to time, she has a good heart.
If you’ve got time for one more scary read this month, see if you can hunt down The Diviners on audiobook at your library. You can listen while you do the dishes or take a dog for a walk. Spice up chore time! Lucky you, the next book in the series, Lair of Dreams is already out, so no waiting for your sequel.
Allison Carr Waechter hears little whispers behind her back as the veil grows thinner. Don’t look behind her. No, I said don’t, you fool! Don’t tell her what you saw, she knows all too well what lurks in the shadows.