Title: The Black God’s Drums
Author: P. Djèlí Clark
Subgenre: Alternate History
In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.
But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.
Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.
I’ve been a big fan of P. Djèlí Clark since reading his short, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, last year, and I’m absolutely elated about the upcoming release of his first full novel, A Master of Djinn, set in the same universe as the short story.
Since there’s still a few more days until A Master of Djinn comes out, I decided to pick up another one of his short works, The Black God’s Drums.
This short follows a young woman named Jacqueline—nicknamed Creeper—an orphan who lives on the streets of New Orleans in an alternate universe where the Union and the Confederacy are still at each other’s throats at the turn of the 20th century, New Orleans won its freedom from the South, people fly around in airships, and the African gods are entirely real beings who partially possess certain people.
Though this is a short work, Clark manages to weave in an impressive amount of world-building while laying down a fast-paced, action-packed plot that involves kidnapping, godly weapons, and airship rescues. Clark also draws an excellent picture of Jacqueline’s backstory in a way that plays directly into the main plot and gives her a fully developed personality despite the book’s length.
I can’t say I have any significant gripes with the plot, characterization, world-building, pacing, or any other major aspect of the book—unless you count “I wish it was longer” as an issue. The world presented in the story is so fascinating that I’d love to read a full-length novel with the same setting.
Alas, I’ll have to be satisfied with this for now, while Clark works on expanding his Dead Djinn universe.