I have had my eyes on this book for a while, but I didn’t pick it up as I wasn’t sure what it was really about. All I knew was that it is an African fantasy.
Also I did not intent to do a review of it, but now almost a week after finishing it, I still think about it and I still think it was pretty good 🙂
Yes this is the author of A History of Seven Brief Killings than won a Man Booker Prize in 2015.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
by Marlon James
Synopsis by GoodReads
In the first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child.
Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.
Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written an adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf explores the fundamentals of truths, the limits of power, the excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all.
It’s a very violent and bloody book, but there is a distance to it which makes it tolerable.
Also, the mythology and world-building are impressive.
The book follows Tracker the main character as he re-encounters his journey to the inquisitor. It starts off with who he is and where he came from and how he ended up being on the hunt for a boy. Then he recounts the journey to finding this boy. He is a tracker but normally works along. This time though he is stuck with several others. The hunt for this boy takes them all around the North Kingdom and the truth about who this boy is changing. Is he the Kings son? Is he a nobleman’s son? is he the murderer of his family?
However, this book doesn’t end the normal way a fantasy book does. It ends then recount what happens next then goes into a bit more of a story. it’s like a song that starts to fade out then change its mind and fades back in for a while longer. It was interesting.
From the beginning, it’s obvious it’s set in a fantasy version of Africa and that there is hardly any technology. Tracker the main character is from a river tribe and has a thing against cloths.
The journey takes them all over the place and introduces the different places and smaller kingdoms and queendoms in the continent.
The world-building is not too steep, there is no info-dumping int he beginning. It’s a slow burner.
There is both magic and science in this book which is fascinating. Firstly there is anti-witches and witches, plenty of shape shifters, there are creatures with wings like a thunderbird, and then there are ten in nine doors. I never fully understood what the anti-witch did but I believe she is the good one and witches are bad ones. The shapeshifters are both good and bad. The leopard is a good one and is Trackers friend from the start.
Science wise there is something called ‘white scientist’. They could appear to look like an albino, but they were never born that way. White science is wrong in every way and even the skin colour of the people who practice it knows its wrong and leave its host…
Tracker – Main character and narrator of his own story. He’s a slightly angry character but he does have a nose… he is also as the title suggests the Red Wolf.
Leopard – is the good easy-going friend of Track in the beginning. After some time they fade away, but Leopard is always there when Tracker eds it, or if you ask him when he doesn’t need it.
Others – there are several characters in this story including the Ogo, the mingi children, the Sogoma, the Kings sister, Mossi the man from the east who I also think is my favourite.
Oh, holy f***! Yes, there are shit tons of it!!
I love how one of the m/m sex scenes where described: One was man and one was woman, then the other was man and the other was woman, then both were both, then both were none.
The writing is the most complex for me in this book. I had problems getting my head around it, which means it took more time for me to get through than normal. However, it did not lessen my enjoyment of it.
This was an intense slow read and I will definitely check out the next instalment when it comes out.
I can understand why some people don’t like it. It’s not an easy read, it very violent, and its nontraditional. But I liked it 🙂
Have you read this? What did you think?