A review by jarshi
Ring Shout, by P. Djèlí Clark

adventurous challenging dark mysterious sad tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


Clark's intention for this book was to show that fantasy stories about wielding swords and slaying monsters can exist outside of the fantastical worlds of white people where people of color barely exist. He wanted to show that black people can be the protagonists of these stories.

I think that in his quest to convey these ideas, Clark has made one of the most compelling modern fiction stories I've ever read. Clark was able to craft a story that centers on slavery and black pain without it being fetishized. I love that Clark decided to make the protagonist a black woman, as I think that introduces a deeper, more intersectional aspect to the themes of anger, hate, and trauma stemming from slavery, racial violence, and systemic oppression.

Another thing that Clark succeeded in (whether intentional or not) was highlighting just how strange the KKK actually is. They wear white sheets and chant while standing around burning crosses. They give themselves ranks and funny names. When you think about it, and when you put all of that within the context of a story like Ring Shout, the whole absurd ritualism of it all becomes so obviously apparent. They're fucking crazy. And it's even crazier that they claim to do it under the guise of *checks notes* Christianity and believing that they were... highly enlightened. Insane.

Anyways, I think this story is so good! The incorporation of Black-American culture, rituals, and magic as a means of goodness and strength instead of being stereotyped as primitive was so nice to read.

This book made me really interested in learning more about African-American folklore.

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