For some reason I had thought The Diviners series by Libba Bray was a trilogy, but by the time I got to the last hour of this audiobook, it was clear that Bray was far from wrapping things up. Turns out there is, in fact, another book in the series coming out in February and I cannot wait because I just want to keep hanging out with these characters.
For a refresher on what happened in the previous book, check out my review of it here.
This book starts out at an insane asylum. Always a good place to start a ghost story. The inmates keep going on and on about the King of Crows, but of course they aren’t hallucinating, they just see things the others can’t. A boy at the asylum, Conner Flynn, has learned to count to keep the King of Crows out of his head, but for some reason sixes are bad, so he counts, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and then starts over and keeps doing that until the danger has passed.
Meanwhile, Evie is trying to deal with someone called Sarah Snow, who hosts a religious radio program at the same radio station and is quickly becoming more popular than Evie. There’s also a movement against diviners, with the assumption being that they’re somehow ungodly, so that hasn’t been helping Evie’s ratings.
Evie decides to take a trip to the insane asylum to forgive Luther Clayton, the man who had tried to shoot her in the last book before Sam so gallantly saved her. She brings along her reporter friend, T.S. Woodhouse, so he can write an article about it, but somehow Sam, Theta, Ling, Henry, Memphis, and Isaiah all end up coming along, too.
The asylum is on an island that requires a ferry to get to and from the mainland, so of course a storm blows up, keeping everyone trapped in the asylum over night. You can see where this is headed, right?
The group gets separated for various reasons and Evie manages to talk to Luther Clayton about why he tried to shoot her. She figure out that, not only was he told to do so by two “shadow men,” but that Luther knew her brother, James. In fact he and James were lovers, and I was surprised (but pleased) that Evie skated right over that detail as if it didn’t even matter. She’s more concerned with how her brother died and how Luther ended up being the only survivor from the entire regiment.
Turns out James was also a diviner, as was Luther and the rest of the regiment. They had been organized as a group of super soldiers to fight in WWI, but something went wrong and they all died – except Luther.
While Evie’s talking to Luther, everyone else is getting attacked by ghosts who keep moaning that they’ve been forgotten and will be forgotten no more. They’ve all been controlled by the King of Crows, whom many people refer to as “the man in the stovepipe hat”. Apparently he’s been around for centuries all over the world, but stovepipe hats weren’t in fashion for that long, so I’m not sure how that works. Anyway, he’s the big bad and it turns out he’s just getting started. His ghostly attack was just a test to see what the gang was capable of, and now that he knows, he’s sure to bring out the big guns in the next book.
From there, the gang decides they need to find out more about diviners and what the army was doing with a whole regiment of them. Jericho supplies some old letters of Will’s, which reference something called “Project Buffalo.” Further inspection leads to some old voice recordings in the museum’s basement of Will and Margaret Johnson interviewing diviners about what they can do.
When the gang confronts Will about this, it turns out he was part of a government project, as were Margaret Johnson and Jake Marlowe, the very wealthy man who control the serum that’s keeping Jericho alive. Will and Jake used to be best friends, but when Jake’s fiancée leaves him for Will, it ends their friendship. Around the same time, Will has misgivings about what they’re doing and he and Margaret leave the team working on Project Buffalo.
But wait! There’s more!
The gang starts to figure out that their mothers were all somehow connected to Project Buffalo and Will admits that they weren’t just studying diviners, they were creating them. Every one of the gang is a diviner because their mothers were given a serum that included diviner blood when they were pregnant so the babies would become diviners. Will gave James an early version of the serum when James was sick as a child and Will thought the serum was the only way to save his life. Then, when Evie’s mother had a string of miscarriages, she took the serum to help her carry a child to term, and so her diviner daughter was born.
Although Will never meant for James to get hurt, Evie can’t forgive him for playing a part in her brother’s death, or for failing to mention the fact that he’s the reason she’s a diviner.
Speaking of Jake Marlowe, he is scheduled to host a major exhibit of all his fine work and he wants Jericho to be part of the exhibit. Jericho doesn’t want to go, but Jake is the only one who has the serum that’s keeping Jericho alive and he is threatening to withhold the serum if Jericho doesn’t participate in the exhibit. S0 Evie convinces Jericho to go and find out as much as he can while he’s there.
So Jericho goes, but Jake is a charming guy, and it doesn’t take long before Jericho doesn’t want to believe he’s involved in any nefarious dealings. The serum he’s been giving Jericho has made him stronger and faster than ever. He’s never felt better.
He manages to talk Jericho into letting Evie come and visit for a weekend. He thinks it’s just Evie who’s coming, but Evie brings Sam, Henry, Ling, and Theta. Ling is enamored of Jake and his accomplishments and doesn’t want to hear about all the evil things he’s done.
While they’re all there, Jake takes Jericho into the lab for another “treatment,” which leaves Jericho, not only stronger, but basically a wild animal unable to control his impulses. He catches a whiff of Evie’s scent, even though she’s outside in the rose garden, and decides he wants her. So he goes and finds her, carries her off into the woods, and is about to have his way with her when one of Jake’s men shoots him with a tranquilizer dart.
When he wakes up, he’s himself again and full of remorse at what he’s done. Evie understands it was the serum that made him act like that, but she still can’t bring herself to trust him again and I don’t blame her. Also, I had been waiting for her to ditch boring old Jericho and get together with Sam and this was just the excuse she needed.
After they’ve left, Jake doesn’t understand why Jericho is so torn up over what he did to Evie who, according to Jake, “barely got hurt”. Jericho has decided he’s had enough of Jake’s “treatments”, so he takes off. As he does so, he stumbles across a room with some kind of generator that is being powered by diviners. He finds out that Sam’s mom is still alive (despite the fact that Sam was told eight years ago that she had died) and that she is one of the diviners they’re using to power the machine. Then Jericho runs off into the woods. He knows he can run faster than any of Jake’s men, but the reader has no idea where he’s headed. Presumably we’ll find out next year.
While they’re all dealing with that, Theta is also dealing with the fact that her abusive husband, Roy, is back and in charge. He’s determined to pick up where they left off and Theta goes right back to being the quiet, meek girl he had abused. She breaks up with Memphis, but doesn’t tell him why, because she’s afraid Roy will hurt him (or worse) if either of them finds out about the other.
When Roy is about to kill Memphis anyway because his boss wants him to, Theta puts a stop to it and admits that she loves Memphis, but Roy warns her it isn’t over because of course it isn’t. The next thing Theta knows, she’s being pulled into a meeting with her boss who wants her to stop seeing Memphis, stop living with Henry, live in a boarding house for women, and make a public announcement about her marriage to Roy.
That’s Theta’s breaking point. She hunts Roy down, fire crackling at her fingertips, and is about to burn him to a crisp for real this time when Memphis, Henry, and Evie all barge in and warn her that killing a man in cold blood will turn her into the kind of person she does not want to become. So she lets Roy go, on the condition that she never see his stupid face again, and she quits her job.
You might have noticed that I’ve barely mentioned Mabel in this review. That’s because she doesn’t do much with Evie and friends in this particular adventure. Instead, she has joined an anarchist group that’s working to take down Jake Marlowe. Mabel and her parents have always fought for the little people, but her parents have always insisted on doing so peacefully. Mabel’s new friends are less bothered by doing some harm. They blow up one of Jake Marlowe’s mines, and while the goal is to do so when no one is there so no one gets hurt, the foremen blame the striking workers and shoot them. That’s what happens when you play with fire.
That should have been sufficient to warn Mabel she was on the wrong path, but by this point she and Arthur, one of the anarchists, have fallen for each other and you know how it is when you’re young and in love. You’ll do anything. Even agree to help your new boyfriend assassinate Jake Marlowe.
They decide to do it at Marlowe’s own exhibition, but Mabel has second thoughts and tries to stop it, only to find out that the plan was never to shoot him, but to blow up the stage when he’s on it, despite the fact that the blast will kill many more innocent people. Mabel tries to stop it, but she fails. The men Arthur was working with to betray the anarchist group show up, shoot both Mabel and Arthur, place the bomb out of reach without disarming it, then lock Mabel and Arthur in with the bomb.
They’re both killed, of course. Sarah Snow, who was on the stage at the time, is killed. Jake is injured, but not killed. Evie and the rest of the gang are fine, but mourning their friend.
Then the “shadow men” really get to work. They’re called shadow men because they all wear gray suits and hats. It turns out they all work for Project Buffalo and use code names like “Jefferson”, “Adams”, “Madison”, etc. They used Guillaume Johnson, a diviner, to kill people they wanted out of the way, and the overuse of his gift turned him into a blind old man long before his time. When Memphis finds out that “Blind Bill” is really Guillaume Johnson, and that he’s been draining Isaiah of his life force, Memphis heals Bill on the condition that he get out of town and never return.
But the shadow men are looking for Memphis and Isaiah. First they go to Papa Charles, Memphis’s employer, and when they can’t get what they want out of him, they kill him. Then they try Guillaume, who knows exactly what they’re after, manages to evade them and run back to Memphis’s aunt’s house in time to warn them that they have to get out of town right now. So they pack up a few things and head to the museum.
They decide to use the tunnels under the museum, even thought Will warns them that they haven’t been used in decades. Memphis points out that they don’t have a choice – it’s that or the shadow men. So Will gives them some food and water, wishes them luck, and denies having seen them when the shadow men show up and kill him.
The shadow men also kidnapped Sam took him back to Jake Marlowe’s estate to help power their giant machine, so that should be fun.
What did you read/listen to this week? Any other sequels you couldn’t get enough of?