I hadn't heard of P. Djèlí Clark before this book, and I'm always happy to find talented new authors. Sadly, while Clark clearly does have talent, neither this book nor the promising award-nominated story "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" really made me a fan.
For one thing, in The Black God's Drums, Clark goes heavy on variety of patois, and I found it heavy going at first. Eventually the feel settled in, but then I found that the characters' voices weren't particularly consistent. In my experience, a little accent goes a very long way; more than is needed to convey the idea gets old quickly.
The alternate universe here is an interesting if somewhat muddled one, but much of the background is presented in a dense infodump that gets in the way of the story. Much of the rest feels rushed - a case where the novella might have been better off as a short novel, allowing a little more character development. The characters themselves were interesting and engaging, and I'd have liked to see a lot more of them - though perhaps less of the steampunkish tropes that have by now become somewhat tired.
All in all, an interesting but somewhat patchy novella. I came away with the feeling that Clark is an author to watch, but not one that is (yet) writing to my taste.
I received a free copy of this
book in exchange for an honest review.