Creeper has lived on the streets of New Orleans since her mother died when Creeper was eight years-old. At thirteen, she does OK for herself, although life is always hard and there is never enough to eat. And then she hears a group of Confederates plotting about kidnapping a Haitian scientist and stealing his mysterious weapon called the Black God’s Drums. This information could be valuable--valuable enough to get Creeper what she really desires: a position on the airship Midnight Robber and a chance to leave New Orleans and start a new life. But this will only happen if Creeper can locate Captain Ann-Marie St. Augustine, and convince her New Orleans is in danger.
After reading The Black God’s Drums, one cannot help but be reminded of Isaac Asimov’s musings about short, short genre fiction stories, “made like a needle fired from a blowgun” that strike home before you even realize you’ve been hit. What P. Djeli Clark accomplishes in his debut novel is astonishing. He presents a cast of diverse, intriguing and compelling characters, two of whom are inhabited by living deities; an alternate New Orleans recovering from the Civil War, where tensions are high and the political landscape is not at all how we recall it; a liberal dose of fantasy and magic based on the lore of West Africa; and all of this infused with a strong steampunk aesthetic. That Clark has so masterfully pulled all of these elements together into an engaging and captivating adventure is reason enough to seek out The Black God’s Drums and experience it for yourself. The fact that he has done so in a mere 110 pages borders on the unbelievable.
The Black God’s Drums is an immersive, unrelenting read that grabs you on the first page and holds on until the end. The only complaint imaginable is that the story is so short and leaves the reader wanting more! This is a MUST read for those who enjoy fantasy, alternate history or simply an excellent story told.
Here is my interview with P. Djèlí Clark.