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Literature / The Black God's Drums

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The Black God's Drums is a 2018 young adult novel written by P. Djèlí Clark.

In a Steampunk alternate history New Orleans, Creeper, a young poor girl who survives by gimmicks, discovers she is the reincarnation of Oya, the Yoruba goddess of storms. She discovers that spies of the Confederate States of America have stolen a mysterious secret weapon from Haiti which they intend to use on New Orleans. Creeper, aided by Captain Augustine of the pirate airship "Midnight Robber", sets out to save New Orleans from destruction.


The Black God's Drums contains examples of:

  • All Myths Are True: The Yoruba or "Orixha" deities really exist and are reincarnated in the physical body of ordinary mortal human beings.
  • Alternate History:
    • The Haiti Slavery Revolt of 1794 was successful and defeated the French, with Haiti gaining its independence earlier as a result. The Haitian Revolution spread to the Caribbean islands, leading to a large-scale insurgency of black slaves in the Caribbean and to the founding of the Free Isles, an alliance of independent Caribbean states led by the Afro-Caribbean. The Haitian rebels defeated the French army in 1794 through a mysterious secret weapon created by a Haitian scientist named Duconge.
    • The American Civil War is still in progress in 1884, with the United States of America divided between the Union and the Confederation, in a continuous and constant war that has worn both sides down.
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    • In 1865, New Orleans became an independent city-state, following a black slave rebellion in 1864 which drove the Confederate army from New Orleans. The Free City of New Orleans became a neutral territory, putting themselves under the military protection of France, England and Haiti, which protect New Orleans from the military threat of the Confederate States of America. New Orleans became a free and safe area for black slaves on the run from the plantations of the Confederate States.
  • Alternate History Wank: The Republic of Haiti was founded in 1884 and became the largest power in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, equipped with advanced steampunk technologies and fleets of airships. Haiti leads the Free Islands, an alliance of Caribbean states. The city-state of New Orleans became part of the orbit of the Haitian Republic following a successful slave revolt in 1864.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The City-State of New Orleans is a melting pot of peoples, races and ethnic groups, a fusion of Afro-American, Cajun, Caribbean, Irish and American culture.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Creeper's mother was a prostitute and Creeper spent her childhood living between the brothel where her mother worked and scraping out a life based on theft and robbery.
  • Magitek: African magic, Haitian magic, and Vodoun and African witchcraft coexist with advanced steampunk technologies.
  • Multinational Team: The crew of the Midnight Robber, a multiracial and multi-ethnic crew composed of Native Americans, Indians, Mongols and East Asians.
  • Mythpunk: The African Gods of Mythology, the Yoruba Pantheon, the Vodoun folklore of New Orleans, and Haitian, Cuban and Afro-Caribbean mythology co-exist in an steampunk New Orleans.
  • Reincarnation: Creeper discovers she is the reincarnation of the goddess Oya, the Yoruba Goddess of storms.
  • Secret Weapon:
    • A mysterious Super Weapon, created in 1794 by a Haitian scientist named Duconge, which allows the Haitian rebels to defeat the French army and alter the climate of the Gulf of Mexico.
    • The titular "Drum of the Black God" is a mysterious super-weapon created by a Haitian scientist, which mysteriously disappeared into thin air.
  • Steampunk: The City-State of New Orleans relies on advanced steampunk technologies and on steam machines. New Orleans has a powerful industrial center, patrolled by airships and zeppelin balloons, and has become a great airship-port in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Sky Pirates: Pirates of the Air have become common and widespread in the Gulf of Mexico and on the adjoining American coast, including the pirate airship "Midnight Robber", controlled by the pirate Augustine.
  • Tomboy: Creeper, the main character, dresses as a boy, doesn't like girlish clothes, and has very masculine mannerisms.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Zeppelin-like airships are widely distributed and used in New Orleans Free City and the Republic of Haiti, where airships have become the main means of transport and are an integral means of the "Flying Military Fleets".