Title/Author: Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark
In a nutshell (Publisher):
Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror
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?
My verdict: Unputdownable and engrossing! Another masterpiece by P. Djeli Clark!
“The Shout come from slavery times. Though hear Uncle Will tell it, maybe it older than that. Slaves would Shout when they get some rest on Sundays. Or go off to the woods in secret.”Ring Shout, P. Djeli Clark
I requested this book knowing only one thing: it’s written by P. Djèlí Clark. I wasn’t surprised at all that this book exceeded all expectations. His. Books. Never. Disappoint. I thought Tramcar and Dead Djinn were exceptionally good, now this! How does he do it? Believe the hype. Read this book.
1922. Macon, Georgia, the land of the Klans. The scene opened with three bad-ass monster hunters – Maryse, a sword-fighting-fear-nothing woman, Cordelia aka Chef, a WW1 Harlem Hellfighter, and Sadie, a lanky, foul-mouthed-sharp-shooter, standing atop a building about to kill some Ku Kluxes – Klan-folks-turned-monsters, hidden in human forms. The only ones who could tell them apart from the Klans were Maryse and her friends, who, besides hunting Ku Kluxes, also helped Nana Jean, a Gullah bootlegger, sell her special water with magic known to ward off evil.
One day, Maryse was called upon by her three ‘aunties’, who gave her the magical sword she now owned. She was told that ‘ill tidings are afoot’, and they needed to do something about it. And with the appearance of Butcher Clyde in Maryse’s dream meant that this wasn’t going to be good. When Maryse met up with him, Butcher Clyde hinted her about a ‘grand plan’, something called the ‘Grand Cyclops’.
When she put two and two together, Maryse figured out that he meant the gathering that was about to take place in Stone Mountain, GA, on the viewing day of The Birth of a Nation – a movie that was conjured to spread evil and violence, and hatred for the Blacks far and wide, making the Klans believe that the colored people were monsters. Even though Maryse and her crew knew they would be outnumbered on that day, they knew it was up to them to stop the gathering, even if it meant risking their lives.
Will Maryse and her crew be able to defeat the Ku Kluxes and bring down the Grand Cyclops? Who was Butcher Clyde and why was Maryse so important to him?
There was so much to love about Ring Shout. Firstly, its fantastic world-building. Enter a half-world where Maryse met with her three aunties; then step into the gnarly Angel Oak tree whose branches bore skulls, rib cages, and horns, and meet the Night Doctors (also known as Night Riders, Night Witches, Ku Klux Doctors, and Student Doctors are bogeymen of African American folklore) known to have snatched slaves and experimented on them; and of course, come to Atlanta where Black-hating Klans were a common sight.
Clark also brilliantly blended history with fantasy, making D. W. Griffith not only the creator of the racist movie, ‘The Birth of Nation’, but also a conjurer who was going to use his film to spread hatred and evil among the Klans.
Then there was also the Ring Shout (video below), which I knew nothing about until now. Traditionally, it was a religious ritual during slavery times, done with song and movement led by the spirit, to give strength and hope to the enslaved. But in this book, the Shouters helped magicked Nana Jean’s water into a special concoction used for protection and fight against the Klan.
On top of the richly-imagined worlds, this novella also had many unforgettable characters, and I loved every one of them – from Maryse and her crew, to strange Aunty Jadine, and Maryse’s brother who only made a minor appearance but whose voice was heard throughout. I not only saw how much Maryse loved him, but also felt it whenever she thought of him.
The friendship between the three women was a joy to read, they were funny, honest, loyal towards each other; I also loved how protective Nana Jean and the Shouters were of Maryse and her friends. And oh, Butcher Clyde, that detestable, monstrous ugly thing! Don’t even get me started on those shrieky mouths on him. Yuck. What a sight.
Just like other of Clark’s novellas, reading this put me on an emotional roller-coaster. Those fight scenes had my heart racing; the touching, emotional moments pulled at my heartstrings, and not forgetting the horrific monsters and creatures of sorts that made me wince and retch, and some lighthearted moments that made me smile.
‘Ring Shout’ cannot come at a better time when this country is in racial turmoil. At the heart of this novella, is the theme of racism. Fed with intense hate, the Klans would turn into Ku Kluxes, and there’d be more and more of them if hate grew, and if Maryse were to continue to allow hate to consume her, and continue to hunt the Kluxes, the cycle of violence would never end. We can’t douse fire with more fire. The fire has got to stop.
To say this novella packed a punch is an understatement. It was as thrilling as it was horrifying, engrossing as it was powerful, entertaining as it was educational. How is it that a novella can be packed with so much goodness? I believe Clark knows magic.
Ring Shout is dark fantasy meets horror meets historical fiction, with fantabulous writing and a cast of unforgettable characters. Let it be known that ‘Ring Shout’ is something to shout about! Please forgive the cheesy pun.
Thank you NetGalley and tordotcom for providing a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!