Source: Tor – I received this complimentary copy for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
Edition: ebook, 110 Pages
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy, Alternate History
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
Creeper, a scrappy young teen, is done living on the streets of New Orleans. Instead, she wants to soar, and her sights are set on securing passage aboard the smuggler airship Midnight Robber. Her ticket: earning Captain Ann-Marie’s trust using a secret about a kidnapped Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.
But Creeper keeps another secret close to heart–Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, who speaks inside her head and grants her divine powers. And Oya has her own priorities concerning Creeper and Ann-Marie…
The Black God’s Drum is a novella with a steampunk and supernatural twist. I have recently gotten into Tor’s novella selection, and I have to say that this is probably my favorite of their offerings so far!
This bit of alternate history takes place in Civil Ware era Lousiana. New Orleans is a free and neutral port, but still sees it’s share of activity closely related to the war of the states. Here we meet Creeper, a young girl who lives on the streets and who has an Orisha goddess on her side, Oya. Though the novella is short, so much is packed within the pages. New Orleans really shines on these pages, bursting with atmosphere and life with each turn.
I quite like Creeper and her desire to rush off to adventure on an airship, and I love her tenacity even when faced with problems far larger than her. Her relationship with Oya was quite interesting as well, and the entire set up for that portion of the story was kind of beautiful. Then there is Anna-Marie, a bisexual airship captain, who I would want to run away with if I could. She’s fierce and stubborn, and though she can be somewhat blunt toward Creeper she only means the best for her. Their friendship is fantastic, and it’s so nice to see both parties learning from each other. There are a small host of other characters that really stand out as well, like the sister nuns and Feral, and I find myself wishing this were a full-length book because of them. Clark’s characterization is absolutely on point. This is my first novel incorporating the Orisha pantheon, and though I’m not familiar with the gods and goddesses of it I really loved the version Clark painted for us. So beautifully subtle and yet there is no question to the power and rawness of their nature. I look forward to learning more about the Orisha on my own and hope to see more of them in other books.
Unfortunately, I can’t say too much more without possibly spoiling such a fun read, truly one of the few downsides to novellas, but I can honestly say I’d love to read more by Clark. He has an undeniable skill to paint a world with very few pages to do so, without ever sacrificing fleshed out characters and meaningful relationships.