ARC Review: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

I’m gonna be honest, if there has been something good in my life during this lockdown, it has been discovering the genius that is P. Djèlí Clark. I started with his short story when I was in a slump and couldn’t focus and he has captivated me completely with everything of his I’ve read since. So, it was a no brainer that I was excited for this new novella, but I never expected I would get the ARC and that was a wonderful surprise. And wow was this spectacular. 

I feel like I’ve already used up my bag of superlatives in the intro paragraph because I just don’t have more words to describe this amazing story. The way the author manages to blend real historical events starting from slavery to Prohibition era America when this story is set, the deep rooted racism of the times, along with lovecraftian horror elements and some good old monster hunting – it’s a carefully crafted masterpiece that packs a very big punch in less than 200 pages. The main character Maryse and her friends Sadie and Chef just jump off the page, with distinct personalities and backstories, and a deep abiding friendship that leaves a mark on you. There is also a very memorable supporting cast of characters, including the villains who all have such a distinct narrative voice despite very little page time. Added to all this are some very thrilling action sequences as well a couple of very creepy chilling ones, and this little novella is essentially perfect. 

But what ultimately makes this book extra special are the underlying themes, and for something that’s actually a historical novel, it’s unfortunate that most of these themes resonate with us even after almost a hundred years. There is so much hate in these pages, in the hearts of the Klan members and the monster Ku Kluxes, and while that might not be the form it takes in our world today, there is still the same hate and politicians festering it even more to gain and keep their power. One of the characters makes a point about how the white Klan members have so much hate in their hearts against Black people even though they already have all the systemic power over them, and exert it to the fullest extent possible, and I think our current predicament gives answers – they don’t even wanna contemplate the idea of losing that power and do everything possible to hold onto those racist power structures. But ultimately the message of the book is that despite facing all these oppressions for centuries, when Black people protest and fight for their rights, they are doing so not with the kind of hate they’ve been subjected to, but with sadness and pain and righteous anger and the need for justice. 

To conclude, I don’t wanna say much more except, just read this book because it is thrilling and horrific and impactful, and feels like something you’ve never read before. The writing, the characters, the history, and the horrors – every element comes together perfectly to form a tour de force of a book, and I promise you will be swept away in awe. This is must read fantasy and I can’t wait to read whatever the author comes up with next. 

5 star

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