Book Review: Ring Shout by P. Djèli Clark | #SpooktasticReads

50687822. sy475

Genre : Horror, Alternate history

Publisher : Tor.com

Length : 176 pages

Format : eARC

Rating : 4 stars

Publication Date : October 13th 2020

Publisher’s Description

D. W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and The Birth of a Nation is a spell that drew upon the darkest thoughts and wishes from the heart of America. Now, rising in power and prominence, the Klan has a plot to unleash Hell on Earth.

Luckily, Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword and a head full of tales. When she’s not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she’s fighting monsters she calls “Ku Kluxes.” She’s damn good at it, too. But to confront this ongoing evil, she must journey between worlds to face nightmares made flesh–and her own demons. Together with a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, Maryse sets out to save a world from the hate that would consume it.

Book Review

Set in 1922, Georgia during the rise of the KKK, Ring Shout follows Maryse Bourdeaux and her two friends Sadie and Chief as they hunt and kill monsters. Indeed, as if the regular KKK members weren’t horrible enough, some of them are turning into actual monsters that hunt, kill and eat Black Americans.

Maryse has a magic sword and she isn’t afraid to use it against the monsters, the ones she calls Ku Kluxes. Their ranks are growing alarmingly quickly and the coming screening of The Birth of a Nation, a movie produced the famous sorcerer D. W. Griffith, only hints that something bigger is brewing. Something that could end the world.

It’s alarming that a story set in the 1920’s manages to show how systemic racism is still rooted in our current society. I know Ring Shout was written before the events of this year but it deeply resonates with them and I think most people would benefit from reading this book.

Ring Shout is a story of Black rage, it’s unnerving, angry, and scary yet it’s also an ode to the richness and beauty of Black culture. It’s also a page-turner, I was at the edge of my seat the entire time and I read it in one sitting.

One of the reasons I love reading is that it allows me to learn a lot of things I didn’t know about. And I learned a lot while reading this novella. While a lot of elements of the story are fantastic, the heart of Ring Shout is rooted in history. For example, the title Ring Shout refers to a religious ritual practiced by African slaves. I didn’t know about it before reading but I highly recommend watching this video on the subject (even if you don’t end up reading the book). I was also unaware of the movie The Birth of a Nation, an incredibly racist and hurtful movie released in 1915 which romanticized the Ku Klux Klan. I also learned about the Night Doctors, pictured as another type of monstrous creatures in the story, Night Doctors stories were used by southern slave owner to prevent Black American from fleeing to the North.

I also really appreciated that, while the Ku Kluxes are depicted as monstrous creatures, the author explains that the monsters are only able to contaminate people that are fueled by hate. The monsters don’t turn innocent people into blood-hungry and racist monsters, it’s their own hateful feelings towards black people that turn them into monsters.

Finally, while the themes and ideas explored in Ring Shout are fascinating in their own rights, it’s also a great story with an amazing and diverse cast of characters. From Maryse to her crew of badass women, her friends, and her family, all the characters shine and add to the story. It is also the perfect spooky read for the season: the monsters, the scary spirits with hidden intentions, the secret rituals… Ring Shout has it all!

The only thing preventing me from rating this book higher is that it has a lot of similarities to one of the author’s previous novella The Black God’s Drums, both in terms of narrative structures and main characters. Thankfully, the plots are quite different, but the similarities were striking enough to pull me out of the story during the first half of the book. I probably would have enjoyed Ring Shout more if it had been my first encounter with P. Djèli Clark’s works. However, take my opinion with a grain of salt, I haven’t read any other reviews mentioning it and I would still highly recommend Ring Shout to everyone! 😊

Four stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
Art by Sergey Nivens from 123RF.com

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Ring Shout by P. Djèli Clark | #SpooktasticReads

  1. I agree with everything you said! This was my first Clark so I didn’t have that experience you had with The Black God’s Drums. But I loved how much I learned from reading this book. I ended up googling the Night Doctors, Ring Shout and the movie as well, it was horrifying but fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yours is the latest very positive review I’ve read about this book, to the point that I did not wait to add it to my TBR: I love it when authors mesh historical facts with a dash of speculative fiction, and this story looks like one from which I will learn a great deal, indeed. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had mixed feelings about The Black God’s Drums so I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy Ring Shout but the hype and the gorgeous cover made me read it and I’m so glad I did, it’s a great read! 🙂
      Even if it deals with hard topics, it was still a fun adventure and the characters are fascinating as well.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s