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Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star…

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy)

by Marlon James

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4171137,913 (3.44)47

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Disclaimer: According to my kindle, I hung in for 20% of this and then bailed. YMMV, but this was not my cup o' noodles.

Some history: I really, really want to be into Marlon James, but am now oh-for-two.

I couldn't get A Brief History of Seven Killings to work for me. But then, Black Leopard Red Wolf came along. A book stuffed full of African myths and legends, mysticism and fantasy, "more immersive than Tolkien" was intriguing.

I think it's safe to say this is a dark and raw book with a highly unlikeable narrator. There is a lot of graphic, sex and violence, often together. By a lot, I mean like unavoidable, as in on pretty much every page, and it's just numbing after awhile.

I don't want to ever be numb to sexualized violence for the sake of a 'challenging' story that at its root is supposed to be entertaining.

I've found Marlon James an intriguing author in concept, because he's billed as sort of a complex, challenging genius to high culture critical acclaim. For me, his writing is obtuse, and his stories difficult and dense, which isn't the same thing.

TLDR: Perma-pass. ( )
  angiestahl | Apr 4, 2019 |
I have heard good things about this book. I was very anxious to try it .science fiction is out of my comfort zone but I tried. I got lost. it'll make a great movie and I will go see it but it makes no sense I got lost.
  JJKING | Apr 2, 2019 |
Is there anything better than anticipation rewarded? Ever since Marlon James hinted, after winning the Booker, that he wanted to play in the fantasy genre, I was anticipating this book. It is everything that I wanted it to be. I am even more pleased, actually surprised, to find this book standing in the Fantasy section of the bookstore instead of with his other work in the mainstream. That's the kind of recognition it took years, decades, for the genre to arrive at - not to mention a brave publisher who must have insisted on this categorization instead of couching its promotion in non-fantasy verbiage, a shell game that fools no one.

For the first two chapters I was worried. Marlon James jumps around in time as he introduces Tracker's framing story, pressing the experimental line. The next couple bring clarity, and after that I got what I came for. You've heard of Afro-Futurism? This is full on Afro-Fantasy. The author bought a truckload of African myths and legends, dumped them out in his yard and sifted through them for the best stuff - or maybe he used all of it? Tracker's world is brimful of bizarre creatures, spirits and spells, all living side by side and taking each others' existence for granted. It's only the young and inexperienced in this story who are surprised by anything they encounter. Me on the other hand, I had no idea what he would be introducing next. Knowing all the while that he wasn't just making it up, that all of this had some basis in actual African legend, gave it more substance and bite than just a tour of one author's wild imagination. If Africa had a fantasy market that started at the same time and paralleled what Tolkien began, suddenly we have this view into where it would be today, like it was never missing.

If it was just inventive world-building, that would not be enough. Tracker is at the centre of the story, and he's one of the most deeply drawn characters I've seen in a fantasy novel. Severian of Gene Wolfe's New Sun books is the only one who readily comes to mind that compares. The various others he travels with are also given time and attention, with scarcely anyone being mentioned who doesn't then have a backstory provided. Dialogue is brilliant and quotable. James makes good use of his map; there's no starting point in this corner, ending point in that opposite corner. Throughout the book we are jumping around, or taking voyages through random swathes, with references to more beyond the borders. The narrative is largely chronological, guided by the framing tale, but there are also some fantastic nested stories, tales about people who are telling tales about other people. James proves himself a master at avoiding the 'infodump' problem, providing information at the most appropriate time when it's needed, but holding back anything that will have greater impact later in its proper place. No one will ever say this novel could use more action. The only thing I can fault him for is missing dialogue tags in rapid fire conversations, where I think even he lost track of who was speaking a couple of times.

A couple of cautions: the degree of violence is perhaps the one thing this has in common with Game of Thrones, and there's scarcely a page lacking a sexual reference. Hopefully that doesn't hold you back. I've yet to read the titanic force that is N.K. Jamieson, but Marlon James has at least contributed toward the beginning of another new era in fantasy fiction. If his world does not get a Hugo nomination, there is something wrong with ours. ( )
  Cecrow | Mar 28, 2019 |
“I will give you a story.

It begins with a leopard.

And a witch.”

“The child is dead. There is nothing left to know.”

This kicks off the first of an epic fantasy trilogy by Booker Prize-winning author, Marlon James. It follows the adventures of Tracker, “He has a nose,” a young man, who is engaged to track down a boy, who was kidnapped. He normally works alone but ends up, with a band of misfits, with unusual powers, including the enigmatic Leopard, the shape-shifting creature, that Tracker forms a tumultuous relationship with.
James has done his homework here, weaving African history and mythology, into this beefy narrative, teamed up with his own impressive imagination. There is also excessive violence and profanity, so the reader should keep this in mind. I found it to be unnecessarily verbose at times, meandering, and there is some repetition, but overall this was a promising beginning, by a very fine writer. ( )
  msf59 | Mar 21, 2019 |
Might change to a 5, we'll see how it sits long run.
I would say don't read this if you are super sensitive to any and all dark themes in your stories. Just blanket statement for all of them, because they're in here. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I heard this pitched as 'African Game of Thrones' and really that's a terrible way to sell this. Everything about this is different from GoT (and better in my opinion). I don't know that I can describe it adequately or in any succinct way. So, I great enjoyed this. It has the bones of a traditional quest story line, but it was done so well it felt elevated and past that. It won't be for everyone, I promise you that. But I enjoyed it immensely. ( )
  Adilinaria | Mar 13, 2019 |
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To Jeff, for quartermoon and a million other things
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The child is dead. There is nothing left to know.
Not everything the eye sees should be spoken by the mouth.
When kings fall they fall on top of us.
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