Fabuleux. If you have a thing for thieving street orphans or the power of New Orleans, I highly recommend giving it a read.
Creeper is a street orphan in the polyglot city of New Orleans. She loves her city but also has dreams of traveling the world. While she’s casing out the passengers arriving by recent airship, her hiding space is usurped by a gang of men. They’re talking treason, smuggling someone from Haiti and bringing an awful weapon into the neutral zone that is New Orleans.
“Les Grand Murs were built by Dutchmen to protect against the storms that come every year. Not the regular hurricanes neither, but them tempêtes noires that turn the skies into night for a whole week. I was born in one of the big ones some thirteen years back in 1871. The walls held in the Big Miss but the rain and winds almost drowned the city anyway, filling it up like a bowl…She said I was Oya’s child–the goddess of storms, life, death, and rebirth, who came over with her great-grandmaman from Lafrik, and who runs strong in our blood.”
Though dialect writing often annoys me, once I accustomed myself to the made-up words and the accents, I was able to immerse myself in the story. One of the weaknesses, however, is that some of the information about the political situation of New Orleans doesn’t feel as well-integrated as I would like. Though Clark tries to avoid info-dumping, the end result is a more confused situation. The world is obviously well-thought out, with a great deal of thought into the politics of 17th and 18th century colonialism and empire-building, but it mostly ended up being so much filler for me. That’s me and history, however.
There’s a fairly wide cast of characters for a novella, although the emphasis is on the right ones. I thought the main characters of Creeper and Captain Ann-Marie are well-developed, and I’ll add Clark (who I thought was a woman) to the short list of Men Who Write Women as People. There’s a couple of little jabs in here about the value of education. A pair of nuns provide a little comic relief as well as the semi-divine mechanism for solving the situation.
There’s some of the smallest seeds of similarity with River of Teeth (time period, a different version of the Mississippi Delta, non-normative sexualities), but this is exponentially better. Every criticism I had there was improved here. Cross Foundryside with River of Teeth, and perhaps the tiniest bit of Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding. I’ll definitely be looking for more by Clark.