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…
Well, I finally got around to this novella. After discovering P. Djèlí Clark earlier this year and hitting myself on the head because why hadn’t I read his works before, I’ve finally caught up with his first novella and as expected, it blew my mind.
While the Cairo that he created was magical, his version of New Orleans is equally amazing. The way the author weaves an alternate history of Civil War era America, a free New Orleans as well as a similarly independent and emancipated Haiti and the West Indies, is masterful. The book is so short but without ever resorting to any info dumps, we are presented with the politics of this world perfectly. On top of that, I also loved that we have airships and dirigibles and many other mechanical devices in use, similar to the author’s other works. Added to the mix are the African Orisha gods and goddesses – and everything feels pretty organic and very very real.
The writing is spectacular as usual and it feels like we are thrown right in between the characters and we are experiencing it all ourselves. The descriptions are lush and gorgeous and I could almost feel the smell of the incoming storm and the sting of the raindrops. It’s very rare that I feel this immersed and it was amazing. The pacing of the story is also very fast, which is understandable given the page count, and within a short span we get a mystery, a kidnapping, an adventure and so much more. In this journey, we meet a whole set of eclectic characters, one more fascinating than the other and I honestly can’t choose whom I’m more taken by – the delightful Creeper, the stern smuggler captain of an airship or the two eccentric nuns who have their finger on the pulse of the city.
I specially want to mention the audiobook narrator Channie Waites because she brings a whole new life and personality to the story. She is evocative, making us feel every emotion that characters feel, and her different accents for the various nationalities we meet are absolutely on point. I’m definitely more impressed with this story because of the way she tells it.
To conclude, this story was all kinds of wonderful and I had so much fun. If you think you’ll enjoy an alternate steampunky Civil Era New Orleans, magic of African goddesses, a stormy adventure and a splendid set of characters, then this novella is perfect for you. And even if you aren’t sure, I would still recommend that you give this audiobook a try because it’s an experience that you shouldn’t miss.