Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In his day job, P. Djeli Clark is a historian. I've read somewhere that a history degree is a SFF writer's secret weapon, and the author certainly proves that here. He weaves a richly imagined stew of post-World-War-I history, Gullah-Geechee culture (including the fascinating, titular ring shouts), Lovecraftian monsters hiding in human suits, the early 20th-century rise of the Klan--fueled by the movie The Birth of a Nation--the folktales of Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, and the inspired notion of the architects of the Confederacy (Nathan Bedford Forrest, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee) being dark sorcerers and conjurers. Put this together with a heroine named Maryse Boudreaux who hunts said monsters with a magical sword, and you have a wonderful story, potent and timely. As William Faulkner said, "The past is never dead. It isn't even past."
I very much appreciated the characters in this story, particularly our protagonist Maryse. Without getting too much into spoiler territory, she has several things to overcome here, and the book's climax hinges on her character growth and the choices she makes. This is just a fantastic story all the way around. I thought the author's previous novella, The Black God's Drums, was good, but this is better.
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