• The Good: Rousing, gory, action-packed fighting with monsters born from racial hate
  • The Bad: Some tired tropes and unearned emotion
  • The Literary: An homage to the pulp horror of the early twentieth century

The 1915 film The Birth of a Nation swelled the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan, depicting Klan members in a very positive light as they uphold the heroism of white supremacy. In Ring Shout’s alternate-reality, three black resistance fighters, including Maryse Boudreaux, fight the Klan members who become literal monsters in 1920s Macon Georgia. Armed with her singing sword, Maryse and her friends send the Ku Klux demons straight to Hell. In addition to Locus, Nebula awards, this novella won the World Fantasy Award and the Goodreads Choice Award for Horror, among others.

I really like the mix of sorcery, African spiritualism, Christian imagery, and Lovecraftian monsters packed into this story. There’s so much action, gore, blood, and horror, with zombies, night doctors, tentacles, and so many eyes where there shouldn’t be. I typically think of the Lovecraftian style as slow horror that doesn’t really ever show the monster, but this is more in-your-face, a slasher of flesh-eating, entrail-eviscerating monsters. Ku Kluxes are evil spirits from other dimensions and feed on the hate of the KKK. I like the fantasy and horror tie-ins. The world-building feels haphazard but I know there’s a lot there to pull from in future books.

Unfortunately, with so much time given to the action and world-building, the rest of the narrative elements feel tired. There’s a sassy protagonist with a tortured past who must recognize she’s the chosen one. She’s got a boy-toy who’s pretty and good at sex, but I’m lost on why she likes him. I like that the protagonist has survivor’s guilt for a lost friend, but the death of the character has little emotional impact.

I’d recommend this one as an audiobook. The narrator really loves this story, bringing it to life with voices and sound effects and much excitement. But also, the book is written with phonetic dialects, which can be difficult to read. Recommended as a spoof/send-up of  pulp horror with African folklore and African-American history!