Seventeen-year-old Itzy Nash is spending the summer at the exclusive Carlyle hotel in New York City. But the hotel harbors more than the rich and privileged; it is host to a gorgeous fallen angel, reclusive movie stars, and—Itzy soon learns—demons of the worst sort. When the Queen of the Damned checks in, all Hell breaks loose. Itzy is called upon to save herself—and all of humanity—from the ravages of the Underworld. There’s only one problem: Itzy’s possessed. Part gothic thriller, part historical fiction, the novel straddles the Upper East Side and the lush trappings of the Carlyle hotel, and Paris during the Reign of Terror in 1789. Marie Antoinette is the Queen of the Damned. Marilyn Monroe is an expert demon hunter. To kill a demon, Hermès scarves, Evian water, and a guillotine are the weapons of choice. For anyone who loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this has an epic battle between angels and demons with a doomed love story at its core. But it’s also darkly funny, for fans of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and more than anything it’s something original—dark, funny, clever, and glamorous.
DIVAH by Susanna Appelbaum is an interesting mix of New York City glam, horror, romance, and magic. DIVAH follows the story of Itzy, a young girl blossoming in the art of photography, who moves to New York City to live with her aunt for the summer. But all is not what it seems at the Carlyle hotel as Itzy’s eyes are opened to world of angels and demons and her family’s role right in the middle of it.
Itzy is a bright, somewhat naïve girl whose story is easy to be entrenched in. She’s likeable and carries the narrative of the story well- giving the reader the necessary insight and explanation of things that are foreign to us. She’s mature but still defiantly a teenager struggling with first crushes and the weight of responsibility.
The specific world building is fantastic. The glam of New York City drips off the page. Interspersed within the narrative is an assortment of letters, pamphlets, flashbacks, and multiple points of view that all create a really immersive experience within a world that is truly unique.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The action scenes are incredible confusing to me and I had to re-read large sections at a time to get a handle on what was going on which is unfortunate because there is a lot of action in this story! Even when the action is relatively toned down- for example, there’s a scene where Itzy and another character take down several demons in an elevator- I still wasn’t able to visualize and track the movement of the scene.
The main romantic storyline follows Itzy and one of the fallen angels, Luc, while they’re story is sweet, I felt a little uncomfortable with the obvious age difference between these two characters and whether or not Luc was actually interested in her or just manipulating her to get what he wanted.
The Final Verdict:
DIVAH by Susannah Appelbaum is an immersive story that successfully marries Old Hollywood and New York City glam with a touch of horror, romance, and magic. It’s perfect for fans of the supernatural and the glamorous.
What worked: This is a very intriguing paranormal filled with quirkiness and an assortment of characters that aren't all they seem to be. There's lots of twists on pop culture figures like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly to how demons love Botox. The Carlyle hotel is also very much a character with it's creepiness and how it reveals it's true purpose.
Itzy feels like a teen Eloise who stumbled into a hotel similar to The Shining with all the bizarre and over the top grossness. The scene where she 'thinks' her aunt left her desserts turns into something right out of Great Expectations with maggots, earwings, and flies drowning in the chocolate sweetness.
Luc is mysterious and readers don't find out who he really is until halfway through the novel. Then we find out how Marie Antoinette was a demon who literally lost her head during the revolution. Seems the Gates of Hell were open during that time and the guillotine was used to behead demons trapped in people's bodies. This brings a whole new meaning to Bastille Day. Luc fell in love with Marie who stole something very personal of his which binds him to her.
I liked the twist on pop culture figures like Marilyn Monroe being a demon hunter and who used the tunnels underneath the Carlyle to meet up with President John F. Kennedy. There's even a reference to Angelina Jolie being a demon hunter too. The whole Botox is like the nectar of demons is hilarious.
The climax of the story, where the Carlyle opens up to Hell, is very intense. The possession of Itzy slowly cumulates into one trippy encounter with the Queen of Hell. These scenes worked. I loved the horror elements that gave the story heart.
I did have problems with how fast things were thrown at readers. Though the section about Marie Antoinette is fascinating, it did at times jar an otherwise fast-paced storyline. I also was confused more than a few times on what was really going on with Itzy. I also wanted more of a spark between Luc and Itzy.
I think that the whole haunting premise worked though I did feel overwhelmed with the angel/demon premise and even how Itzy's parents, including her missing mother, played in all of the story. This is a very quirky story with some unique twists that did keep my attention.
Quirky tale where a girl finds herself in a haunted ritzy hotel with secrets that involve a demon hunting Marilyn Monroe, a demon Marie Antoinette, and a forbidden love. Oh, and the 'real' reason behind Bastille Day.