Sponsored by The Perishing by Natashia Deón
Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley with no memory of how she got there or where she’s from, only a fleeting sense that this isn’t the first time she’s found herself in similar circumstances. As flashes from different times haunt her dreams, Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent to this place and time for a very important reason. But what could it be? Set against the rich historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, this “marriage of period lit and science fiction will plug the Lovecraft Country sized hole in your heart.” (Essence).
Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor! Also, check out our new podcast Adaptation Nation, all about TV and film adaptations of your favorite books!
Today’s pick is a novella that is great for lovers of alternate history settings and fantasy.
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
This book takes place in New Orleans in an alternate post-Civil War setting with a steampunk overlay. In this alternate history, the Union and the Confederacy called it a draw so folks were free in the Union states and slavery was legal in the Confederate states. They would put gas masks on the enslaved people and pump them full of a gas that basically made them like living zombies that followed orders. New Orleans is considered neutral ground.
Our protagonist is a teen nicknamed Creeper, because of how deftly she can climb things. The goddess Oya has taken up residence inside Creeper, occasionally giving her visions or even working through her physically. Oya is the Yoruba goddess of the wind, one of the Orisha brought over with the Africans on the first trans-Atlantic slave-trader ships (I’m oversimplifying). Oya gives Creeper a startling vision that puts her on edge, and then Creeper overhears some men talking about a Haitian scientist who is willing to trade The Black God’s Drums for a jewel.
Creeper knows just who to tell, or rather, barter with having this information. There’s an airship Captain who would go to great lengths to keep this out of the hands of the Confederacy and Creeper is looking to become crew on an airship. When Creeper finally is able to talk to the captain privately, the captain, too, has a goddess in residence, the goddess Oshun.
This novella takes so many exciting twists and turns and it’s full of amazing, eclectic characters that make me want even more stories featuring them. It’s a super entertaining read and perfect for this time of year if you’re trying to meet an end-of-year reading goal.
That’s it for now, book-lovers!
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