The Black God's Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark

The Black God's Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor, August 2018), is the story of a 14-year-old girl who calls herself Creeper (her real name is Jacqueline, in case you are doubtful about heroine's named Creeper), because she creeps through the night of an alternate New Orleans, surviving as best she can....

It is a few years after the Civil War ground to a stalemate; New Orleans is a free city, but there are still slave states in the south.  One night Creeper hears information that changes her life, information that she can trade, she hopes, for passage on a Haitian airship, the Midnight Robber.  Captain Ann-Marie is appalled to hear the news--a terrible weapon, the Black God's Drum, built a few years back in Haiti, is about to fall into the hands of men who will use it to bring the end they wanted to the Civil War, possibly destroying the whole country (literally) in the process.  Reluctantly, the Captain takes Creeper on the mission to recover the weapon, the scientist who was coerced into handing it over, and his kidnapped daughter....They are outnumbered, and the weapon is being primed for use, but the two women have remarkable allies--each is giving house space to a  powerful West African orisha (goddess), ready to unleash their rage....

I was impressed as all get out.  It is a cracking good story, which was nice, but not a remarkable feat.  What was remarkable is that in only 122 pages the reader gets a detailed alternate history with rich world building, plenty of backstory for the main character, plenty of mythological magic and almost magical spookiness, a soupcon of steampunk, magical tough as nails black nuns (I loved the nuns!), and quite a bit of smart alecky humor tossed in.  The beginning made me a bit doubtful, as it seemed gritty--dark urban decay-ish, with someone named Creeper as the main character--but it turns out not to be gritty in that way at all, and I really liked it and I sure do hope she gets another story!

This isn't marketed as a Young Adult book as far as I can tell, which means it isn't eligible for the Cybils Awards, which is too bad because it absolutely is YA by any measure other than how it was published.


  1. Oh, I have been interested in this one. Thank you for sharing this review, as it's inspiring me to pick it up! Sounds like really interesting worldbuilding.

  2. Magic nuns! I didn't know about that part! But everything else I've heard about this book has made me verrrry hype to read it. Tor does such terrific work with their novella line, I'm always delighted to see a new one out.

  3. This is the first i'm hearing of this, but I've saved to my want-to-read list now!

  4. You had me at Haitian airship, and now I really wish it were eligible for the Cybils so I could read it right away!

    1. It's short and fast, so you could probably squeeze it in.....


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