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

adventurous challenging dark emotional funny hopeful inspiring reflective 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? Yes


“Bad wedduh, bad wedduh, bad wedduh, gwine come…” 

“There were two brothers, Truth and Lie. One day they get to playing, throwing cutlasses up into the air. Them cutlasses come down and fast as can be—swish!—chop each of their faces clean off! Truth bend down, searching for his face. But with no eyes, he can’t see. Lie, he sneaky. He snatch up Truth’s face and run off! Zip! Now Lie go around wearing Truth’s face, fooling everybody he meet.” She stops stitching to fix me with stern eyes. “The enemy, they are the Lie. Plain and simple. The Lie running around pretending to be Truth.” 

TITLE—Ring Shout 
AUTHOR—P. Djèlí Clark 

GENRE—Fantasy; Horror 
SETTING—Georgia (Macon & Stone Mountain) in 1922 
MAIN THEMES/SUBJECTS—Black culture & history in America; Black pride; Black resistance; racism; folklore / folktales; Ku Klux Klan; monsters 

WRITING STYLE—⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
BONUS ELEMENT/S—literally everything about this book was perfect but I especially loved the details that made it feel extra gothic; I also loved the Gullah-Geechee character; and the descriptions of the characters’ clothing was also really good (and romantic ❤️) 

Ok here we go. This is a great example of my favorite kind of book. Folklore. (“And them tales got it backward! Rubbish and rabbit propaganda is all that is!”) Storytelling traditions. Revenge of the oppressed. Extremely badass characters. Perfect philosophical underpinnings. Gorgeously gothic and bone-chilling horror elements. And a (seemingly) effortlessly beautiful writing style. An easy 10/10. 

“Who says all the fantasies with sword-wielding heroes and heroines have to be in Middle Earth, Westeros, or even our dreams of Africa past—“copper sun or scarlet sea?” Maybe they can happen right here, too.” — from the Acknowledgements section 

There’s a climax the story is leading up to and part of you thinks you know what it’s going to be and then when you realize a literal *half* a beat before the MC does what’s going to happen you get actual chills. I felt like I was knocked sideways—I didn’t see it coming, and yet it was the most perfect twist for the story. Even thinking about it now I’m getting goosebumps again. 

And *then* the way the MC takes that twist and her reaction to it is 100% perfect. The deeper philosophy, I should say the many layers of deeper philosophy, to this story is some of the best I have ever encountered. Solid, real, and fully-formed in the mind of the author and excellently communicated through the characters and action of the story. 

“The Shout keeps going, whirling into the night. Like Judgment Day.” 


TW // racism, bigotry, slavery, genocide, mentions of lynching, PTSD, colorism, body horror, gore, death, violence, abduction 

Further Reading— 
  • the entire syllabus included with my purchase of this book from Decentred Lit in Jamaica! in particular… 
    • books I have: Kindred, by Octavia Butler 
      • Mules and Men, by Zora Neale Hurston 
      • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle 
      • Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde 
      • Beloved, by Toni Morrison 
    • books to get: the Annotated African American Folktales, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Maria Tatar 
      • all of P. Djèlí Clark’s other books including The Night Doctors 
      • Searching for Sycorax, by Kinitra Brooks 
      • The People Could Fly, by Virginia Hamilton 
      • Hammers on Bone, by Cassandra Khaw 
      • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle 
      • Shout Because You’re Free, by Art Rosenbaum 

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