Review: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 10/10

Synopsis

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror.

D. W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and The Birth of a Nation is a spell that drew upon the darkest thoughts and wishes from the heart of America. Now, rising in power and prominence, the Klan has a plot to unleash Hell on Earth.

Luckily, Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword and a head full of tales. When she’s not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she’s fighting monsters she calls “Ku Kluxes.” She’s damn good at it, too. But to confront this ongoing evil, she must journey between worlds to face nightmares made flesh–and her own demons. Together with a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, Maryse sets out to save a world from the hate that would consume it.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Ring Shout for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

Ring Shout is the best thing I’ve read from Tor.com since The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. This is, hands down, my favorite novella of 2020 and nothing is going to knock it off that pedestal. Clark is at the top of his game and needs to be on every bookshelf in the world.

Dark fantasy meets historical fiction meets supernatural horror. While that sentence alone does not sum up all that Clark has fed into this 192 page novella, it gives you a small glimpse into what you can expect to find within. If you don’t find a story with a female, African-American bootlegger with a magic sword that hunts racist monsters appealing, you’ve come to the wrong review. This novella was an absolute gut-punch from start to finish, and I honestly cannot find a single fault in it.

While the backdrop is a grand part of history I believe we should all be ashamed of and should be far more removed from than we are at this point in time, it provides Clark quite a sandbox to play in with this characters. It isn’t like racism was only apart of Georgia’s history, and based on the end (no spoilers), the author isn’t stopping here with Maryse’s story.

Though her counterparts add a ton to the story with their witty, foul-mouthed banter and monster hunting capabilities, Maryse shines so bright in a story so grim and dark. She has to be one of the most bad-ass heroines I’ve ever come across, and the depth to which Clark writes her story has no bottom. From the tales spinning around in her mind to the story behind her having this sword bestowed upon her, I was memorized throughout the entire book.

On top of all that, Clark can write some damn fine creature and body horror. The Ku Kluxes themselves, on top of some of the other “baddies” that shall remain nameless, are downright terrifying and I’m glad there is someone decapitating them at every turn.

All in all, I really could talk about this novella until the cows come home, but you really just need to pre-order it and read it for yourself. I cannot… I repeat CANNOT recommend Ring Shout enough, so just do the thing. Also, stay tuned because on October 5th, Clark will be joining me on my YouTube channel to chat.

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