On first glance, I thought this book might be The Illuminati meets Tarot Cards, or something of that nature. The purple hues of the cover, the eye displayed prominently at the top in a sort of key-like shape all screamed occult to me (though when purple exactly decided to be unilaterally affiliated with magic in my noggin, I’m not quite sure). Those were my first thoughts: magic, mystery, and mayhem. Though not necessarily in that order.
That’s when I cracked it open and read the blurb:
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.
Magic in the Roaring 20s? Oh yeah.
It’s not generally a time period I’m familiar with. My only literary forays into the 1920s stemmed from The Great Gatsby, as I’m sure it does for anyone who worked their way through 11th grade English. It’s a period I enjoy, though not as appealing to me as Victorian England. But I’m excited to delve into a world of flappers, Ziegfeld girls (I honestly had to look that one up), and prohibition.
I’m also really excited about the main character. Evie seems like an ab-so-lutely wonderful character. She has a supernatural power and decides the best use of it is to catch a serial killer? That kind of bravery is hard to find outside of Hogwarts, so I’m excited to see the rest of her personality. She strikes me as a jump-first-ask-questions-later type of gal, with a penchant for flair and fashion (she is a flapper, after all).
I am a tad hesitant about the different narrative story-lines, the ones that don’t follow the same cast of characters and deal with other people on the other side of the city. Personally, for me, I don’t like them as much as a single vein. I like single narrators, or even multiple narrators all following the same events, but not varying story lines that take a lot of time to converge, if they even do. It’s too many characters in my opinion, and I end up not caring for the central protagonist as much because of it. In some genres, it’s more acceptable (Game of Thrones, for example) and necessary, but with a YA fantasy mystery, I’m not so sure. I’ll give it a shot though. This might be the book that changes my mind.
Also, the fact that we seem to be in the upper-YA category has me thrilled. As a writer, I never know if what I’m getting into might be too old for YA. But we’ve got dead bodies, mutilated corpses, and a serial killer all in the blurb. As macabre as it sounds, I’m excited that we seem to be more PG-13 instead of PG here.
So bring it on, Libba Bray. I’m excited to see what dark evil has been awakened.