by Libba Bray; Narrated by January LaVoy
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
This is the second book in Bray's Diviner series and picks up shortly after the first book ends. We are welcomed back with some known characters: Evie, Sam, Jericho, Mabel, Theta, Henry, Memphis, Isiah, and Ling along with some new characters. This book once again shifts points of view, with two main story lines weaving together: Evie and Sam researching Project Buffalo and Henry and Ling spending time dream walking for answers or seeking out others. A sleeping sickness has the city in grips after it just recovering from the Spanish Influenza pandemic and no one knows how it is affecting people and how to heal them. At 613 pages long, this book has a lot go of threads weaving together, but Bray kept my interest throughout the story by keeping the story moving along with enough interests and nuggets to dig into for me.
Bray also does a good job of not washing over the social injustices during the 1920s: immigrants, Blacks, and Jewish individuals were victims of racism, prejudice, and harassment. There is a Ku Klux Klan parade at one point during the book--a normal, praised sight at this point in American history. Also present is the Chinese Exclusion Act, which is often times an overlooked part of our whitewashed history. There are moments in the narration that I just cringed because of the blatant remarks, the outright hostility, and the unfair treatment but it is important for these moments to be in books so we can discuss them with our students. Life was not pretty and easy for everyone--if you were not white or Christian (specifically Anglo Saxon Protestants), then you had roadblock after roadblock in your path to overcome. With Ling, Sam, and Henry all from marginalized groups, readers are able to get a brief glimpse into what immigrants/Chinese, Jewish, and LGTBQ people experienced during this time in history.
This is once again narrated by the highly talented LaVoy. This book has many more characters and dialects for LaVoy to keep track of and almost every time she does manage to stay within the appropriate character's voice, accent where appropriate, and emote the correct emotion in her voice. As the pace picks up, so does her narration without it getting muddy or harder to understand. The Diviner novels are long and the size often intimidates some of my students, but offering the audiobook alongside the book brings this book to more readers hands. Along with this, LaVoy does such a great job, that the audio production adds another level and richness to the story.
I highly recommend this series to all those who are fans of historical fiction that is combined with the supernatural and mysterious. The pacing might be too slow for some readers, but the writing is just beautiful so I enjoyed this book, however I know it is not going to be for everyone. While some of the themes are sophisticated, the content is a bit on the mature side so I will just let my younger students I know who prefer clean reads that this may or may not be the series for them given the alcohol, death, and romantic relationships.