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The Black God's Drums

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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…

112 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 21, 2018

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About the author

P. Djèlí Clark

45 books4,276 followers
Phenderson Djèlí Clark.

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the author of the novel A Master of Djinn, and the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including, Griots and Hidden Youth. You can find him on Twitter at @pdjeliclark and his blog The Disgruntled Haradrim.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,815 reviews
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
August 3, 2019
“The name of your ship is Midnight Robber!
She pauses at this. Shrugs. Then says evenly: “It's satire.”

This novella was so addicting.

I absolutely love the worldbuilding of this book. The Black God’s Drums is set in a post-confederate New Orleans in which the South achieved their goal of armistice. While many cities rebelled, they succeeded in keeping most territories, using slave labor and keeping them confined via a type of poison gas called drapeto. The aesthetic used is perfect, keeping you very firmly within the alt-history lowkey-sci-fi vibe but also not feeling overdone.

The characters in this book, all of them black, are first and foremost trying to keep their sanctuary together, and though they are all selfishly motivated, their love for New Orleans brings them together. I thought this was a super compelling story thread - it’s hard not to root for New Orleans to avoid falling under confederate rule and Drapeto.

All to fall in with this whole compelling-thematic-narrative thing, we have some super cool characters! This book is about a fourteen year old girl named Creeper and a lesbian ship’s captain named Ann-Marie. I love the murder nuns. I love the doctor’s daughter. And Oya, Creeper’s Orisha presence, is so iconic. I love her and I would die for her.

I never have enough to say about short Tor novellas, so I guess all I can say is… I really liked it? It’s an overall fun and compelling read, very fast-paced [clocking in at only 100 pages], and will almost certainly interest you if you’re at all into Tor’s line. Which I always am. Favorite publisher and all that.

Thank you so much to Tor for the arc! [release: August 21]
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Profile Image for carol..
1,534 reviews7,863 followers
September 17, 2018
Fabuleux. If you have a thing for thieving street orphans  or the power of New Orleans, I highly recommend giving it a read.

Creeper is a street orphan in the polyglot city of New Orleans. She loves her city but also has dreams of traveling the world. While she's casing out the passengers arriving by recent airship, her hiding space is usurped by a gang of men. They're talking treason, smuggling someone from Haiti and bringing an awful weapon into the neutral zone that is New Orleans.

"Les Grand Murs were built by Dutchmen to protect against the storms that come every year. Not the regular hurricanes neither, but them tempêtes noires that turn the skies into night for a whole week. I was born in one of the big ones some thirteen years back in 1871. The walls held in the Big Miss but the rain and winds almost drowned the city anyway, filling it up like a bowl...She said I was Oya's child--the goddess of storms, life, death, and rebirth, who came over with her great-grandmaman from Lafrik, and who runs strong in our blood."

Though dialect writing often annoys me, once I accustomed myself to the made-up words and the accents, I was able to immerse myself in the story. One of the weaknesses, however, is that some of the information about the political situation of New Orleans doesn't feel as well-integrated as I would like. Novellas need to be tightly written, and there's a little more info than we really need for this story. Though Clark tries to avoid info-dumping, the end result is a more confused situation. The world is obviously well-thought out, with a great deal of thought into the politics of 17th and 18th century colonialism and empire-building, but it mostly ended up being so much filler for me. That's me and history, however.

There's a fairly wide cast of characters for a novella, although the emphasis is on the right ones. I thought the main characters of Creeper and Captain Ann-Marie are well-developed, and I'll add Clark (who I thought was a woman) to the short list of Men Who Write Women as People. There's a couple of little jabs in here about the value of education. A pair of nuns provide a little comic relief as well as the semi-divine mechanism for solving the situation.

There's some of the smallest seeds of similarity with River of Teeth (time period, a different version of the Mississippi Delta, non-normative sexualities), but this is exponentially better. Every criticism I had there was improved here. Cross Foundryside with River of Teeth, and perhaps the tiniest bit of Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding. I'll definitely be looking for more by Clark.

Many, many thanks to Cillian Dear for my copy!

Here's a link to Tor's site where one of Clark's shorter stories resides (also quite good):
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,167 reviews98.2k followers
August 22, 2018

ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

“Because in New Orleans, you can’t survive on just dreams.”

The Black God's Drums is an amazing novella that stars a young girl, Jacquelin AKA: Creeper, living in an alternative historical 1884 New Orleans. Oh, and Creeper also has an African orisha, Oya, living inside her and allowing her to tap into their powers. And even though Creeper is loved in New Orleans by so many people who loved her mother before she passed away, Creeper wants more than New Orleans is willing to give her.

“She said I was Oya’s child – the goddess of storms, life, death, and rebirth, who came over with her great-grandmaman from Lafrik, and who runs strong in our blood.”

And she didn’t get the nickname Creeper for nothing. On top of being blessed by a goddess, she is also sneaky and stealthy, and it completely works to her advantage when she stumbles upon a secret weapon that could alter everyone in New Orleans’ lives forever. But Creeper is also hoping that it will be the ticket that finally gets her out of the city she’s called home forever.

This New Orleans is a free, neutral, and open port even though everything surrounding it is not. Even though this book is set after the American Civil War, we all know that slavery and oppression didn’t go away, it just became different. The same way it’s different in 2018, but it’s still here. And this book really shines a light on that ugly confederate pride that is still alive today. And there is a group called the Jeannots, who will do anything to take back their city, even if it means destroying it.

Trigger and content warnings for slavery, loss of a parent, death, murder, torture, racist comments (always challenged), and war themes.

I loved this book and P. Djèlí Clark is now forever on my auto-buy list. And in this ownvoices novella, the entire cast is black. And the characters in this book are a tier above most, and you can’t help but fall in love with them in only 100 pages! Creeper, Madame Diouf, Anna-Marie (the bi or pan airship captain of my heart, also physical disability rep because she’s missing a leg), Feral, Eunice and Agnes, I loved them all. And I want nothing more than more books from this world.

Overall, this is such a bright shining light in the SFF world. From the writing and prose, to the themes and discussions, to these amazing characters that I won’t soon forget. But my favorite part was seeing all the orishas and talking about them with one of my best friends, Lilly! She blessed me with an in-depth knowledge of all the orishas and makes me appreciate this beautiful book even more. P. Djèlí Clark has created something so beautiful, and so magical, and so important. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with it.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Lilly at Lair of Books & Alexis at The Sloth Reader! ❤
July 31, 2018

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So real talk: I wasn't sure I'd be given an ARC of this book after committing the cardinal sin of giving CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE a one-star review, especially after said review caused a ton of people to low-key imply that I'm a racist for not liking a book written by a black woman. The blow-back was such that I wondered if maybe I'd been put on a blacklist entitled, "Warning: racist blogger, do not give any ARCs written by PoCs." Luckily, if there is such a list, I don't appear to be on it yet, because I received my ARC of THE BLACK GOD'S DRUMS and I really enjoyed the novella, because it was basically exactly what I'd expected from CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, but didn't get. So joke's on you, haters. Maybe I really did just think CoBaB was shitty, after all!

THE BLACK GOD'S DRUMS is also about the Orisha, a pantheon of African gods, just like CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE. Unlike CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, this doesn't take place in a made-up country inspired by Nigeria, but a steampunk New Orleans in the Civil War-era of the U.S. timeline, where the Confederacy and the Union are at a weary detente, but racial tensions continue to flourish and grow. (I made a mistake in this status update, when I compared the two and said they were both African-American-fronted; CHILDREN OF BLOOD is African-fronted, since it takes place in Africa. Only THE BLACK GOD'S DRUMS is AA-fronted. I apologize for the mistake.) The main character is an African American girl nicknamed "Creeper" who is blessed by the Orisha, Oya, the goddess of storms. After she receives a vision that appears to foretell destruction of the city by the hand of a man in a skull mask, she ends up on a quest that leads her right into a hot mess of deadly weapons, nun-scientists, gods, voodoo, racism, and, of course, heroism.

This novella is super short (my copy was under 100 pages), but packs a mean punch. It's told in first person, with a Southern patois, so there were some words where I actually had to read them aloud in order to understand what the heroine was saying, but once I got used to the narrative voice, I thought it added a really authentic and interesting flavor to the heroine's story-telling that made the setting feel much more "real," if that makes sense. I also liked how involved the mythology was in this story, whereas CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE glossed over the Orisha, focusing more on a typical stock fantasy setting with an insta-love romance. Readers, you will be pleased to hear that there is no romance in this book, only butt-kicking girls kicking butt with the help of the gods.

Also, major props to this dude, the author, a male writer who wrote a book about mostly female characters who felt real and multi-dimensional, who came from all walks of life, without sexualizing these female characters or subjecting them to the male gaze. This is literally one of the few books I've read written by a dude where the female characters actually read like authentic female characters, and I feel weird praising this book for doing something that everyone should be doing, but it's the exception rather than the rule, so hats off to P. Djèlí Clark for being one of the few male writers to actually write women as multi-dimensional beings with agency that exists separate from sexuality.

It took me a while to get into the story, but I really liked how much it reminded me of the Wonder Woman movie, as well as the setting, and even though it was really short, I think it worked in a way that a longer book wouldn't, because there was so much information to digest in THE BLACK GOD'S DRUMS that a longer book might have been way too intimidating. I'm hoping that this is the first book in the series, because I think Steampunk New Orleans is a setting that begs to be explored.

If you, like me, were disappointed by CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, pick up THE BLACK GOD'S DRUMS instead. It's an #OwnVoices fantasy novel with a kick-ass heroine and a rich mythology, which is pretty much exactly what most of us have been asking for.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

3 stars
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
April 5, 2019
Upping my rating from 4.5 to 5 stars on further thought. This really is an excellent Tor novella, and my favorite of the novellas nominated for the Nebula this year. Final review, first posted (in a slightly different form) on Fantasy Literature:

In an alternative history, magical steampunk version of New Orleans, in 1884 the city is still influenced by the aftermath of the Civil War, which ended in a division of the Union and Confederate states. New Orleans is a pocket of neutrality, one of the few territories not aligned with either the North or South. The city is run by a council made up of ex-slaves, mulattoes and white businesspeople; British, French and Haitian airships patrol the skies to keep the peace.

Thirteen-year old-Jacqueline is a bright, quick street girl and pickpocket who goes by the name of Creeper (for her skill at climbing walls). Within Creeper lives part of the spirit of Oya, the orisha or goddess of storms, life and death, lending Creeper power over wind and sharing premonitions and visions with her. And her latest vision is a doozy: an immense, horrific skull moon hanging over New Orleans, snuffing out the lights below. Not long after, Creeper accidentally overhears a plot that may endanger the entire city: a group of southern men is angling to get possession of “the Black God’s Drums” from a Haitian scientist visiting the city.

Creeper tries to barter the information to Ann-Marie St. Augustine, the tough-minded Trinidadian captain of the airship Midnight Robber, for a spot on her crew. The captain demurs ― she thinks Creeper is too young and needs some schooling ― but soon both are pulled into the chase to foil the plot that menaces all of New Orleans.

The Black God’s Drums is richly imagined and uses every one of its 112 pages to good effect. P. Djèlí Clark put some serious thought into the alternative history of this world, with enticing tidbits about that post-Civil War history and the unique culture of New Orleans gradually shared with the reader. The magical system, with the orisha (gods of the Nigerian Yoruba people), is equally appealing and an intrinsic part of the plot. I completely bought into the idea of a portion of the goddess Oya living within Creeper, whispering to her, and manifesting her powers through her.

I loved the unusual, colorful characters. The dialects used by many of the characters ― which include a number of French words spelled phonetically ― is sometimes a bit tough to sink into, but isn’t too hard to follow, and adds color to the story. Creeper, who narrates the story, is a precocious, stubborn 13-year-old orphan; she’s a type I’ve met before in literature, but she’s unusually well-drawn, although it’s difficult to buy the novella’s narration as really being that of an uneducated street child. Ann-Marie St. Augustine is more unique, a lesbian airship captain with one leg (she wears a complex prosthesis) who is strong both mentally and physically … and whose stubbornness is a match for Creeper’s. Two nuns with a taste for gossip and weapons almost steal the show in their brief appearance.
The captain looks between the two women, her eyes narrowing. “Allyuh sure allyuh is nuns and not obeah women?” she asks.

Sister Agnès only smiles: a plump knowing angel. I say nothing. Like I said before about these sisters: They’re odd.
There's an offhand reference to Harriet Tubman and her life in this alternative history world that was absolutely delightful. I really hope I meet these characters again!

Highly recommended!
February 22, 2021
The way P. Djèlí Clark reinvents history is bloody shrimping amazing. The worlds he creates are scrumptiously imaginative and imaginatively scrumptious (whatever that means). And SO refreshing. BUT. The problem with this story is that there is way too much world, and not nearly enough story and/or characters. There is so much world to take in that it dwarves everything else.

The plot is alright (if lacking in complexity), but it feels like the author just barely scratched the surface. It's the same for characterization: lots of potential there, but the characters need fleshing out. I can't say I care for Creeper much—and no, it has nothing to do with the fact that she's a despicably young MC, and everything to do with the fact that plain old MEH—but I do think the Captain has Quite Humongous Poof Gone Harem Potential (QHPGHP™). And read a story centered on her delicious smuggling derrière—Creeper optional—I most certainly would.

Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): had this story been a good 50 pages longer, with a more intricate plot and better-developed characters, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more. But it wasn't, so I didn't .
Profile Image for Tori (InToriLex).
459 reviews360 followers
August 30, 2018

Content Warning: Sexually Explicit, Graphic Violence

There is so much rich world building and awesome characters packed into this short novella. Creeper is a orphan who is determined to become a sky pirate. She is also possessed by the African Orisha (Goddess) Oya. In this alternative history of New Orleans, the city is apart of the Union which has split from the Confederacy after the Civil War. New Orleans is a welcoming city where all are welcome and it is surrounded by walls to protect itself from storms and the Confederacy. Creeper's ability to make decisions is hindered by Oya's will, she is controlled by the Orisha's emotions but also protected by her supernatural abilities. In this action packed adventure Creeper joins forces with Captain Ann Marie to locate a scientist and encounters powerful Orisha's, voodoo and a violent gang.

The character development flowed well with the rapid world building to create an engaging short read. There is great racial and sexuality diversity, which brings out important discussions about forms of oppression. Unfortunately slavery is still alive and well in the Confederacy where they drug slaves with a drapto vapor to keep them compliant. Creeper is a strong willed intelligent protagonist that you'll root for the whole way through. This is a genre bending novella that I hope is a series so I can learn more about the quirky characters. The characters include all knowing Nuns, French Captains, Mongolian Captains and one legged sky pirate Captain Ann Marie.

"Shadowy pictures of fields and factories filled with laboring black bodies, their faces almost all covered up in big black gas masks, breathing in that drapeto vapor. It make it so the slaves don't want to fight no more, don't want to do much of nothing. Just work"

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy diverse sci-fi adventures
- want to read more fantasy with diverse representation
- enjoy action packed stories with strong world building and character

I received this advanced readers copy from Tor(.)Com in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
May 11, 2019
Novella Hugo nom for 2019.

Just a question for ya'll: Do you like grinning skulls covering New Orleans? Steampunk treatments of Oya, including airships and an old Haitian god of the wind? Angry urchins just wanting to get away from the streets by any means necessary, but really preferring to ride the wind?

Yep, this is for you, then. :)

I like the writing and I love the gods treatment and there's even a rescue plot in here that rounds it all out. The focus is definitely on good characterization, though. Loved the nuns and enjoyed the realistic portrayals and freaked out with the songs about Andrew Jackson. Definitely a treat for those of us who've enjoyed and sometimes hated the real city. :)
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 58 books8,107 followers
September 7, 2018
Magnificent. Novella set in an alt New Orleans, a free city amid the non-united warring states, with airships, pirates, really weird nuns, and the African and Caribbean gods making a slow return to their free people. Absolutely exceptional world building, language, and atmosphere as a teenage orisha-touched thief has to prevent the Confederates from getting hold of a doomsday weapon. Please tell me there will be a novel, or a series, or a series of novels.
Profile Image for Caro the Helmet Lady.
762 reviews345 followers
September 3, 2019
This was so much fun, even though a bit too short for my liking. And even if too much of deux ex... femina??? I still liked it a lot. Interesting, colourful and steampunk alternative history with Carribean tastes in New Orleans scenery, what's not to like?
Plus - goddesses!
Btw, colour me stupid, but somehow I though the author was a lady and I was quite surprised to discover in the afterword his gender. Because his female characters are so well done! (not like there were many important male ones to compare, but still).
Anyways, I will wait for more and probably check out his Tor short fiction.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,733 reviews648 followers
September 20, 2018
This is a good example of why I am grateful that I have GR friends. Montzalee’s review assured me, “The Black God's Drums by P. Djeli Clark is a fascinating alternative history/world where there is more steampunk but also tribal gods are real.” Carol’s review keyed on, “Creeper…a street orphan (and narrator) in the polyglot city of New Orleans. (Who) ….while…casing out the passengers arriving by recent airship…(hears) a gang of men…talking treason (involving) smuggling someone from Haiti and bringing an awful weapon into the neutral zone that is New Orleans.”

The combination of a different post-Civil War result along with a Big Easy even more intensely flavored by French and African patois is compelling. Creeper loves it and it seems very familiar to those of us who have been there: “When you come back, I’ll show you around,” I offer. “You ain't even got to see any of the fancy krewes. Or the second-line parades put on by the colored benevolent societies with their brass bands. Best dancing and music in the city.” But this is New Orleans if you were doing cannabis and 5 Hour Energy together in large doses. Because it has several additional components that include “the older gods” from Africa via Haiti.

Creeper has a personal relationship with one, or is it that she is possessed? When she talks it often seems to be to herself: “Your people need you now!” I plead. “Just like they did back then. They asked you to be a weapon. And you were as terrible as they wanted you to be. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it? We change you gods wherever we bring you, make you into whatever we need. You couldn’t help your people that got caught in your whirlwind. You couldn’t save them in time. But you can save your people now. The ones right here in this city. They remember you, even if they don’t always call you by name. They sing and dance your songs. They carry you with them in their stories and memories. I carry you. And we need your protection!”

Several of these gods are mentioned by name. The most prominent of these is the one who has taken (possession?) a personal interest in Creeper. It’s not just that Creeper attempts to talk to her personal god. She can empathically sense Oya’s thoughts and feelings.

"Oya remembers it all too well. It wasn’t just the Frenchies that got swept away that day. It was her people too. Her people who had brought her with them in the belly of slave ships. Who had sung her songs and made her offerings in this strange new land, calling her by new names and mixing her up with new gods. Her people who had kept her alive, passing on her tales to those who came after. She hadn’t meant to harm them. But she was Oya, the rain that grows your crops and the tornado that tears your home apart; the wind that brings change and the storm that reaps destruction. Calling on her was always like flipping a coin: one side a blessing, the other chaos. I’m throwing up that coin now, and praying it comes down on the right side." Yes, Creeper’s coin flip will determine, not only her survival but that of New Orleans and all its citizens.

Here is an over-the-top plot; plenty of action; and Clark has left himself plenty of room to move this set of characters into more adventures both in the city “that care forgot” and beyond. An excellent beginning.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,559 reviews2,312 followers
August 29, 2018
Amazing world

The Black God's Drums by P. Djeli Clark is a fascinating alternative history/world where there is more steampunk but also tribal gods are real. A truly unique world. Wonderful well developed characters that came alive on the pages! The world building was outstanding especially since this was such a short novel. The author put so much into so little space and it turned out great! I will be looking for more books by this author. I got this book from the library.
Profile Image for Dennis.
659 reviews269 followers
November 25, 2019
Set in an 1884 alt-history-steampunk New Orleans, Phenderson Djèlí Clark tells the story of a 13-year-old street urchin that dreams of becoming a member of an airship crew.

In this world Clark - a historian – created, the Reconstruction Era never happened and even though there’s a long standing armistice between the Confederates and the Union, the nation remains divided and the possibility of war starting back up is very real. New Orleans, though, taken by a slave uprising in the first year of the war, is neutral territory and now run by a council „made up of ex-slaves, mulattoes and white business folk.“

Jacqueline (a.k.a. Creeper), the young and clever main character, is an orphan living in the streets of New Orleans and making money with thievery and the dealing of information. One day she overhears a conversation between a small group of men that are planning to bring an Haitian scientist to New Orleans, and with him his invention, The Black God’s Drums - a terrible weapon with which the war might be won by whomever gets hold of it.

Creeper tries to deal the information to Ann-Marie St. Augustine, the tough (and lesbian) captain of the airship Midnight Robber, for a place on her crew. Things don’t go as planned, though, and soon the both of them have to work together to prevent disaster from coming to New Orleans.

Creeper‘s love for the city becomes another driving force for her and the author very much makes the place come alive. The worldbuilding is great. Especially for such a short work of a mere 112 pages.

Even better are the two central characters who are both very strong-willed and exceptionally cool, without appearing fake or over-written. In spite of their awesomeness the show gets almost stolen from them by two nuns, who effectively run the city thanks to the power of information and who have some hobbies that are very much against type and would make them wonderful characters for a Robert Rodriguez movie. Honestly, I loved almost everybody in this book. But those two?! Pure gold.

Creeper and Ann-Marie are special too, as they both carry the spirit of Orishas in them, that not only speak to them but also give them certain powers of which they might make use at some point.

Clark manages to create a well thought out alternative history setting and blends a bit of steampunk with quite some mythological and fantastical elements to create a fascinating world populated by a small but great group of characters.

The dialogue is often written in dialect, which makes it a little harder to read (especially for a non-native speaker like me), but also makes the whole thing feel more authentic. And honestly, I got used to it pretty quickly and barely noticed it during the second half of the book.

My only quibbles would be that the main character’s narrative voice is not that of a thirteen-year-old street urchin, in my opinion. Though it does not hurt the story. In fact, the opposite is true. And also that the book is too short. The author managed to pack a lot of things in these 112 pages and still somehow wrote a book that feels perfectly paced. But at the same time, it also feels like a book that could and should be something bigger. Or maybe it is just the beginning of something bigger? Now, that’s something I would certainly love.

4.5 stars, rounded down (but it was close).

2018 Nebula and 2019 Hugo finalist for Best Novella.

2018 Nebula Award Finalists

Best Novel
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark by C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella
Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi)
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean)
Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18)
An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births by José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
Messenger by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)

Best Short Story
Interview for the End of the World by Rhett C. Bruno (Bridge Across the Stars)
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18)
Going Dark by Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear)
And Yet by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 3-4/18)
A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/6/18)
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed 1/18)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan)
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Rick Riordan Presents)
A Light in the Dark by A.K. Du Boff (BDL)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Random House)
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (Henry Holt)

2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Best Novel
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Best Novella
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Best Novelette
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho (Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog)
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly (Tor.com)
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com)
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com)
The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine)
When We Were Starless by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld Magazine)

Best Short Story
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed Magazine)
The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine)
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine)
STET by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine)
The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine)
A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine)

Best Series
• The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older
• The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
• Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee
• The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire
• The Universe of Xuya by Aliette de Bodard
Wayfarers by Becky Chambers

Best Graphic Story
Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colors by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell
Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino, and Tana Ford
Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Paper Girls, Volume 4 , written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples

Best Art Book
The Book of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin
Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon by Julie Dillon
Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer
Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, editor John Fleskes
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie by Ramin Zahed
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, editor Catherine McIlwaine

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan Children’s Books)
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)
Profile Image for jade.
489 reviews288 followers
March 29, 2020
“concealed in my alcove, i can see them all: in every color and shade, in every sort of dress, talking in more languages than i can count, their voices competing with the rattle of dirigible engines and the hum of ship propellers.”

welcome to late 1800s new orleans, a multicultural airship port.

this lovely novella follows street urchin creeper, who overhears the concoction of a plot to bring a godlike superweapon into new orleans. even worse, the confederates are out there trying to get their hands on it.

what follows is a bit of a mystery adventure in which creeper is aided in her pursuit of the weapon by a spunky cast of characters: ann-marie, an airship captain from trinidad, a couple of bantering nuns who act more like secret agents, and a feral child from the swamps.

oh, and if this story wasn’t cool enough already -- creeper’s also got the power of the orisha of wind and storms on her side.

i was hooked and immersed from the very start. clark has this uncanny ability to seamlessly weave together concepts like alternative history (steampunk edition), mythology, and relevant political commentary in a way that makes you think, “hell yeah, why did nobody else ever think of this?”

it’s not an easy thing to build such a rich world in just around a hundred pages, but clark really does his very best. this is a fractured united states of america, in which many cities rebel against the power that the confederate south still wields -- including slavery.

new orleans is one of the few places that’s neutral territory, and what a fantastic urban character it makes. its melting pot of cultures and languages, only underlined by the dialect all characters wield so charmingly, and the lavish descriptions of its architecture are a delight to read. it all just comes together so effortlessly that i wish i could be there to experience it.

(clark does the same with a 1912 steampunk cairo in two of his other novellas, which i also fell head over heels in love with: the haunting of tram car 015 and a dead djinn in cairo.)

the mythology and the integration of the orisha (or gods) in human society was a great touch, and well-placed within the narrative. the political situation in the usa less so, but that doesn’t hold back the story that’s being told. i just found myself a bit more eager to skip ahead on the History Lessons™ parts, ready for the action.

another thing that i found fascinating is that we’ve got a full cast of black, female characters, and they’re all well-established, developed, and genuine. i mean, how often does that happen in a book, much less a book written by a male author? chapeau, mr. clark.

creeper, our contrary main character, and her relationship with the stubborn ann-marie, an airship captain of some renown, was especially fun to watch. they had great moments together, including dry, witty dialogue, and i found myself imagining what they might be up to in the future as soon as i closed my book.

honestly, i can’t wait for what clark is gonna cook up next; all i know is that i’m waiting for it with bated breath.

4.0 stars.
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
904 reviews274 followers
October 7, 2019
Absolutely stunning!! The biggest disappointing is that this is a short story and only 111 pages long. While a good little story Black God's Drum really feels more like the introduction to a new larger world that could have many books written it it. From airships, voodoo, southern culture, strong heroines, steampunk influences and more; there is a lot here to love.

Alternate History
While P. Djeli Clark (sorry I don't have accents accessible on this keyboard) doesn't specifically call it out by the end of the book I was fairly confident that our story was set sometime within 100 years of Napoleon having power. Given there are airships and other awesome steampunk items throughout the book; I'm going to say this is a sort of alternate history. Usually I'm not a big fan of alternate history because it's not creative enough. But that definitely cannot be said about Clark's short story. Instead I had to really think about it when little tidbits that gave hints to the timeframe and world came up. I would have been totally okay if this was a whole new fantasy world to learn. But it does work elegantly the way it is and you can apply many of our social norms to the scenarios successfully which cuts down on the explanations needed.

New Orleans
Setting is such an important part of a fantasy story and when the items around you and magic that may (or may not) manifest is dependant on the landscape it's almost a character all of it's own. Think of Game of Thrones and consider each of the major strongholds of Westeros as characters. The Eyrie, Winterfell, Harrenhal, Kings Landing, etc. all have their own tone, cultural expectations, weather and location that affect everything and everyone around them. The Black God's Drums is like that as well. Where we are and how our location(s) are being approached affects so much around them.
Ever since Sookie Stackhouse gave me some of my first 'real' introduction to Louisiana culture and history in books I have loved learning more about New Orleans (and area). I've also found myself really into blues music over the years and so that has helped with my immersion into understanding this unique area of the United States.

As if the above wasn't enough to be engaging we also have two of the strongest and most interesting heroines I've read about. Each has their own skill sets and a spirit, magic or goddess (whatever you'd like to call it) that speaks inside their head. The struggle between each of the women and their way of dealing with the voice in their head are starkly different and represent the difference between people's approaches and reactions to similar situations. There is a wonderful Psych paper to be written somewhere in here about how people cope and handle the exact (or similar) situation differently.

I absolutely understand why The Black God's Drum was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and World Fantasy award. I'm sad it didn't win any of them! It's definitely more than deserving of any one of these prestigious awards. That said I know the competition is fierce out there these days. It has all the right elements and is elegantly put into 111 pages without feeling rushed, squished or inadequate. If Clark was trying to see what people would think of this concept he has used then I'd say he should immediately write everything possible about these two heroines, their world and it's challenges.
Clark is definitely an author to watch. I will be keeping a close eye on him and keep hoping that TOR and him have a full novel in the works! Too bad I don't know how to do voodoo, like practiced in the story, to ensure more writing is guaranteed from Clark in the future.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,887 reviews1,923 followers
October 21, 2020
Real Rating: 3.5* of five

I received this novella from Tor.com for a review.

I can't say this was a successful read for me, since A Dead Djinn in Cairo was so very, very satisfying; I'm not really excited by New Orleans, for one thing, and found this tale's supernatural elements closer to possession than I'm excited to read.

The fact is I'm just not sure why I can't get jazzed (!) for this one. But not every pitch connects!

*transferred from LT* again, no idea why this review was never here
Profile Image for Jess Owens.
303 reviews4,393 followers
April 29, 2023
DNF @ 50%. I just wasn’t feeling this one and not that it’s bad, but now my reading as been lately, I really can’t continue in a book once I’ve decided I’m over it, trying to stay out of slumpville. I may read this again at a different time and I hear the audio is wonderful- maybe I’ll try that.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,861 followers
February 23, 2020
This is a warm 3-star rating, as opposed to an annoyed or disappointed 3-star rating. There is much to enjoy in this novella: an imaginative take on an alternate-history, steampunk New Orleans; sparky, dialect-infused dialogue; and a fun, propulsive plot. It just ultimately feels a little thin in the end, and while aspects of the first-person voice work, I didn’t always buy it as being as authentic to the character as it could be. Still, I will happily seek out other work by P. Djèli Clark, as he’s clearly a writer of ambition, and brings to bear a refreshing approach to SFF literature.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,556 reviews3,762 followers
July 8, 2021
3.5 stars - I wonder if I had read this novella as my first encounter with the author if I would have liked it even more, but that is of course purely speculation. I did very much enjoy this one, but I do see how the author has grown since this story, as the first half of the novella didn't have the same propulsiveness that his other work has. That said, by the midway point, I was fully hooked and really loved where the story went. The world of this one is, as per usual, super interesting, and I'd love to see more from this world and these characters
Profile Image for Angela.
3,198 reviews368 followers
April 25, 2020
I've never been so thankful for my resolve to work through my NetGalley list of review books. I requested this book AGES ago, and - tragically - never got to reading it. That changed today, when I devoured the entire story in a single sitting.

The Black God's Drums is set in a steampunk, alternate history New Orleans, with the Civil War in a tentative Armistice (after the Third Antietam). The year is 1884, and Jacqueline - though she prefers Creeper - is just thirteen years old. She's grown up on the streets, quick and smart, and with connections and people who care for her. And she's also got an African Orisha, Oya - goddess of storms, life, death, and rebirth.

"The goddess is just ... with me."

"Like you possessed?"

It's my turn to frown up at the woman. "You know that's now how it works."

She huffs, muttering: "Yes, yes. Have to let them in. Don't understand how all of them can with we, and with they priests and all over the blasted place at the same time."

"They're gods," is all I answer.

Creeper is in her spot, prime location for picking pockets of unwary travelers, when she comes across something much more valuable and dangerous. The knowledge that she takes across the city ends up being the catalyst of this fast-paced story.

I loved this novella, from beginning to end. The voice of Creeper was infinitely easy to fall into. I saw New Orleans through her eyes, heard the voices and noise of the city, traveled with the goddess Oya.

World-building is an intricate thing, it takes time and effort to get it right. Some authors can't do it well in a full novel, few authors can do it well in a novella. P. Djèlí Clark is an author that can, and does. I could feel the emotions of this world, clearly imagine every bit of it. Every sentence had meaning, building the character, the world, the plot.

And the characters moved through this world like real people, people with histories, stories, tragedies, and adventures that I just didn't know yet. Even if we didn't know the character's name, they were fully realized characters ready to jump off the page. Creeper we get to know best as we're in her head (with Oya); but I also adored the captain and her crew. Especially the captain. Her wry humor was right up my alley.

"And you going to stop stealing. It's damn immoral!"

"You're a smuggler!" I point out, extending my arms to take in the airship.

"But not a thief!" she retorts evenly.

"The name of your ship is Midnight Robber!"

She pauses at this. Shrugs. Then says evenly: "It's satire."

The other absolutely beautiful thing in this small novella was the amount of diversity and representation! I just - it really puts paid to the idea that it's hard to include it in books. Creeper is Black, born in America, Captain Anne-Marie hails from Trinidad (and is BI-SEXUAL!!!!!), her crew contains an Indian, a Haitian, and Mongolian. And all are just themselves. This is a novella, so we don't get a ton of time with each of them, but the simple fact that they're there; they're identified, and it's completely NORMAL. I was in love.

Let's go back to the bi-sexual captain of the Midnight Robber. There are so few positive representations of bi-sexuality anywhere. This is definitely one of them. The Captain is confident, capable, and not dithering about what she enjoys. She knows she likes both women and men, and that's just normal. Can I tell you how utterly refreshing that was?

This is easily one of my favorite reads this year. I'm definitely going to be finding more of P. Djèlí Clark's work to enjoy.

See more at The Alliterates
Profile Image for Sarah.
636 reviews143 followers
September 12, 2018
I read this in one sitting. It’s only a hundred pages or so, but they are an excellent hundred pages and I am sincerely looking forward to a full length novel with Creeper and Ann-Marie (and the nuns... and Feral... damn it can we just bring the whole gang along?!). Also- please tell me there is a full length novel in the works!

So world building: it’s a like a steampunk alternate history New Orleans- where New Orleans has become its own free territory in the midst of confederate states where slavery still happens. We glimpse a bit of Mardi Gras, a little Cajun and a little creole, a brothel and beignets. I ate the setting up and sincerely wish I had seen more of it.

The characters, though we don’t have much time to get to know them- felt fully fleshed out, with their own voices and insecurities. I loved the little bits of humor peppered through out. The captain is my favorite. But Creeper is a keeper too.

The Orisha gods and magic are outstanding. Reflecting, it’s truly amazing how much Clark crammed into this novella without ever losing sight of what mattered- the story. I loved the description of Oya and her relationship to the other gods.

The story is quick and straightforward- not too many twists and turns but I think it worked here, one because of the length, and two, because he gives us so many other wonderful things to think about.

Now excuse me while I go figure out how much of Clark’s other work I can get my hands on.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,938 reviews787 followers
September 2, 2018
Such a fabulous novella. I started to read this story and was so captivated by it that it was almost depressing to finish it. I hope the author has plans to write fill-ledge novels!

if you like alternative stories, then this is definitely one to go for. New Orleans is the perfect setting, I love reading about the town whether it is a paranormal story or not. However, I have to admit that I do love it when there is some kind of paranormal activity going on.

Creeper is a wonderful character. I can't wait to find out what adventure she will stumble over next time! As for the story, it's captivating and even funny now and then (the nuns are just too cool) and as I said before, I need a full-fledged novel!

This is a pretty short review, but honestly, I just like it so much that I'm a bit lost for words. Just read it!

I want to thank Tor.com for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
Profile Image for Timothy Urgest.
504 reviews263 followers
December 27, 2019
Enjoyable world building, but I didn’t get enough out of the plot. Had this been longer and more fleshed out, I would have liked it more.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,149 reviews1,118 followers
June 1, 2019
The worldbuilding trumps the story and plot, which were too simple.
Stories about/set in New Orleans always fascinate me and I just love the mix here with steampunk stuff. Though it could definitely, most certainly, have more airship actions.
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