This is an alternate history and steampunk fantasy novella set in New Orleans post-Civil War. In this version of history, the Civil War ended with two separate Americas, and New Orleans also seceded into a neutral city-state that is heavily diverse, and populated by many people from the free Caribbean region. Our main character is Creeper (given name Jacquelin, but don’t call her that, she hates it), a teenager. Her parents are dead, and she’s been living on the streets, scraping by. She also has a sliver of an orisha, a Yoruban goddess named Oya, living in her head, and it grants her powers, mostly wind-related, but she also gets visions of things to come.
One of those visions is of a giant skull over New Orleans. Something bad is coming. This leads to a string of events that bring her into contact with one-legged lesbian smuggler (a pirate!) named Ann-Marie, and they have this great semi-antagonistic relationship, where Creeper wants to join her airship crew, and Ann-Marie is very crotchety. They also visit these wacky nuns who I absolutely LOVED and there wasn’t enough of them in the book.
There really wasn’t enough of anything. It’s so rare for me to agree that a novella is the right format for a story. If your idea is intriguing enough, I’m nearly always going to want it to be more fleshed out, and that’s the case here. The worldbuilding and character-building Clark crams in here is very impressive, but imagine what he could have done with a hundred more pages! I also think it would have given the ending more breathing room. Action scenes are almost never my thing, and I did check out a bit during this one, which took up quite a bit of the novella’s real estate. What was here, though, was pretty great. I definitely see why people are loving this author so much, even though he’s only published novellas and short stories so far.
Read Harder Challenge 2020: Read a sci-fi or fantasy novella (under 120 pages).