The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark


Rating: ★★★★★

Creeper is a New Orleans teen surviving on the streets circa 1871, but Creeper longs to see the wider world.  When she hears rumors that a Haitian scientist is hiding in New Orleans with a powerful object known as The Black God’s Drums, she sets to work trying to trade that information for a ride out.

I read this in one sitting. It’s only a hundred pages or so, but they are an excellent hundred pages and I am sincerely looking forward to a full length novel with Creeper and Ann-Marie (and the nuns… and Feral… damn it can we just bring the whole gang along?!). Also- please tell me there is a full length novel in the works!

So world building: it’s a like a steampunk alternate history New Orleans- where New Orleans has become its own free territory in the midst of confederate states where slavery still happens. We glimpse a bit of Mardi Gras, a little Cajun and a little creole, a brothel and beignets. I ate the setting up and sincerely wish I had seen more of it.

The characters, though we don’t have much time to get to know them- felt fully fleshed out, with their own voices and insecurities. I loved the little bits of humor peppered through out. The captain is my favorite. But Creeper is a keeper too.

The Orisha gods and magic are outstanding. Reflecting, it’s truly amazing how much Clark crammed into this novella without ever losing sight of what mattered- the story. I loved the description of Oya and her relationship to the other gods.

The story is quick and straightforward- not too many twists and turns but I think it worked here, one because of the length, and two, because he gives us so many other wonderful things to think about.

Now excuse me while I go figure out how much of Clark’s other work I can get my hands on.