‘The Black God’s Drums:’ Book Review

It is the late 1800s, and Creeper is a thirteen-year-old orphan girl who lives on the streets of New Orleans and gets by stealing in this alternate history of America.  Through a hard-fought battle at the end of the American Civil War, New Orleans is the only place where people of color are free, and Confederate and Union soldiers can socialize without coming to blows. Creeper hopes to escape her hand-to-mouth existence with the help of an airship captain, but life becomes more complicated when she overhears that the Rebels plan to kidnap an important Haitian scientist whose knowledge might destroy her beloved city. But Creeper has a secret. Deep inside her lies the old African God, Oya, who can be a bit capricious.  Will Oya and the airship captain help her stop the Rebels, or do they have an agenda of their own?

This Hugo and Nebula-winning novella is an engrossing alternate history on the American Civil War. Told from Creeper’s point-of-view, the author employs local dialects (Cajun, Haitian, Louisiana French, etc.)  to deepen the reader’s experience. His ability to do this is outstanding. Creeper is written as an intelligent, likeable young woman who when she sees an opportunity, she takes it.  The use of the Orisha (African Gods) reminds me of Tomi Adeyemi’s The Children of Blood and Bone which is also excellent. This is a fully realized world with depth and attitude. Oh, and yes, the story is a page turner.

I had the pleasure of listening to Mr. Clark speak during the online Nebula Conference in May which inspired me to pick up the novella. It reminded me of the importance of reading authors who come from different backgrounds other than your own. It is the first step in developing empathy toward another person and something we should all be mindful of in today’s world.


Creative Team: P. Djèlí Clark (author)
Publisher: Tor Publishing
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