Review: The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: ★★★★☆+

Synopsis:

Creeper, a scrappy young teen, is done living on the streets of New Orleans. Instead, she wants to soar, and her sights are set on securing passage aboard the smuggler airship Midnight Robber. Her ticket: earning Captain Ann-Marie’s trust using a secret about a kidnapped Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper keeps another secret close to heart–Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, who speaks inside her head and grants her divine powers. And Oya has her own priorities concerning Creeper and Ann-Marie…

Review:

Thanks for Tor.com and the author for an eARC of The Black God’s Drums in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my review in any way.

This was my first dance with Clark as a writer, so I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. Easy to say that I was overall impressed with his writing and the ability to tell such an imagined story in so few pages.

While most Tor.com novellas seem to “snapshots” or “one-offs”, I could definitely see Clark expanding this story into a series, or even a full length novel. It was simply one of those stories that you weren’t ready to turn the last page on. A post-Civil War and completely re-imagined New Orleans teeming with airships, Yoruba deities, ancient weapons, and all the charm of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.

What really struck me was the world-building. While I have not been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, I have been to NOLA before and Clark absolutely captures the heart and soul of the city. The cajun food and jazz music. The vibrant costumes and dialects of its people. It is simply dazzling. In fact, I think I can smell the beignets now.

While the story only lasts about 110 pages, the character of Creeper will be one that stays with me for a while. Fierce and determined are words best to describe her, but do not do her justice. While her quality of life is diminished, what with having to live on the streets and all, think of the difficulty she has, and the burden it brings, of having an ancient deity speaking through you and granting to you powers beyond your comprehension. That is a great deal to throw on a scrappy young teen, but she handles it with finesse and grace.

Overall, this was a fantastic story that I think everyone should give a chance. I just hope Clark gives us more Creeper in the future!

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