The Diviner's Tale
by Bradford Morrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Diviner's Tale / 978-0-547-38263-0
I'd not heard of Bradford Morrow before this book came available on Vine and NetGalley, but I will definitely have to check out his other novels after this exquisite tale. Equal parts an ambiguous tale of madness and magic (for we're never sure where the diviner's talents actually come from), a heart-warming tale of coming to terms with family disaster at all stages of life, and a terrifying tale of mystery and suspense, it's impossible to set down "The Diviner's Tale" from beginning to end.
There's something very beautiful and touching about the writing style here; the author clearly has a touching love affair with words and with etymology, and just as clearly trusts the reader enough not to bang them repeatedly over the head. For instance, the main character is aptly named Cassandra - a young woman cursed with prophetic visions and rarely able to convince others to listen, as well as deeply interested in Greek literature and mythology - but the point is made lightly and never dwelt on, with the end result that the naming never feels cheap or gimmicky. Morrow lingers over carefully wording and phrases like a gourmand might linger over a particularly delicious meal, but as soon as the taste has had a moment to spread over the tongue, he swallows and moves on to the next dish - the end result is a book that will be deeply enjoyable to devoted linguists without being tiresome or slow for the rest of us.
The plot itself puts me somewhat in mind of The Gift - a sometimes psychic of dubious standing in a small-town community has a vision of something horrible happening, and is torn between a desire to return to her quiet life, and a desire to do the right thing and help an innocent victim find peace. Whether Cassandra's fore-visions are magic or madness, we're never quite sure - and she's a more vulnerable main character because of it. While you or I might go to the police immediately upon something threatening happening, Cassandra realistically worries that her perceptions of reality may be so skewed as to be imagining danger where there is none.
The writing itself, as it carefully doles out tiny pieces of Cassandra's childhood and dark memories long hidden as the present forces them to the surface, reminds me somewhat of Five Quarters of the Orange, where just beneath a quiet and peaceful community lies a dark past, hushed up and yet still ominously affecting the present. Morrow's writing here, however, has a good deal faster pace and sharper bite than Harris' also-excellent writing, and this edge gives "The Diviner's Tale" a strong broad appeal to multiple audiences.
It's hard to imagine that anyone would dislike this book. I highly recommend picking it up - once you're past the first chapter and acclimated to the author's distinctly poetical rhythm, I can almost guarantee that you won't be able to put the book down again until the satisfactory conclusion.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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