The Black God's Drums - P. Djeli Clark

It's Hugo nomination reading time again and this is one of the candidates for Best Novella, one of those which are stand-alone pieces of writing rather than one in a series (which reminds me, I must check out where I'm up to with the series containing some of the other nominees...).

 

Anyway, the basic premise of The Black God's Drums is that it's set in an alternate world, one where the US Civil War ground to a halt around the time that Haiti and a number of other Caribbean islands asserted their independence. Unlike our world, where the various attempts at this were only partly successful, this one stuck and that was in part due to the use of the eponymous weapon - something supernatural, harnessing the force of a number of African gods with devastating result. This story is set some years after, mostly in New Orleans, a city in neutral ground where a plot is hatched to gain control of that weapon for the use of the Confederacy. 

 

Our protagonist is Creeper, a young girl living on her own in the city and making her way however she can, helped by the fact that she's special to one of these gods and can harness Oya's power at times. When Creeper overhears elements of the plot, she makes plans to foil it and falls into the company of a number of interesting individuals along the way. 

 

I really enjoyed this novella, as the world-building was excellent and the plotting really drove the story onward - if it wasn't incredibly mean to do so, I'd have dropped a star for the fact that I really didn't want this to be novella-length, as I'd have happily carried on reading a novel-length story in this setting. Hopefully the author may turn his hand back to this at some point in the future!