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Black Leopard, Red Wolf

by Marlon James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Dark Star Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,792615,269 (3.31)106
Winner of the L.A. Times Ray Bradbury Prize  Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award The New York Times Bestseller Named a Best Book of 2019 by The Wall Street Journal, TIME, NPR, GQ, Vogue, and The Washington Post "A fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made." --Neil Gaiman "Gripping, action-packed....The literary equivalent of a Marvel Comics universe." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times The epic novel, an African Game of Thrones, from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings In the stunning 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. As Tracker follows the boy's scent--from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers--he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying? Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.… (more)
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» See also 106 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
I tried really hard to finish this book. I felt guilty for receiving an early copy of this through a giveaway and not finishing it. I only made it about 1/3 of the way in. But it's so hard to follow and I'm just not enjoying it. Maybe I'll come back to it later ...
  my6boyzmom | Jul 20, 2024 |
See raamat solgutas mentaaliselt ikka täiesti läbi :D
Alguses oli raske otsa peale saada - maailm oli nii läbini võõras ja kummaline nagu võõras kultuur ikka. Ja muidugi punnib vastu - angloameeerika ulme on ajju juba sügavad maanteed sisse tallanud, ja nüüd tuleb see Aafrika monstertruck ja arvab, et sõidab sealt kust tahab ...
Lõpuks muidugi sõitis ka, ja ma nautisin seda 100%.
See on kahtlemata üks kõige huvitavamaid asju, mida ma viimasel ajal olen lugenud, ja mida kaugemale ma jõudsin, seda rohkem hakkas meeldima. Aafrika mütoloogia(te) pentsikus ja võõrikus on tohutult värskendav ning selle täiesti teistsugused mõttemustrid ja arusaamised keerasid oma mõtteilmas ka mitmele asjale värske külje ette.
Üks väike lugu ka, maitseks.
Ka te teadsite, et teisena sündinud kaksik on tegelikult esimene? Aga nii vaat on, sest kui sünd algab, siis ütleb vanem kaksik nooremale: "Sina mine aas ja vaata, mis värk on." Ja noorem läheb, valmistab ette. Ja alles siis tuleb vanem :)
( )
  sashery | Jan 29, 2024 |
a poetic style of writing tells the fantasy saga of Tracker, a mercenary character in Africa beset by magic, his own unrelentingly brutal history, and the cost of the vengeance he insists on. a whole lot of the point of view boils down to a nihilist grimdark wonderland, albeit with a different sort of setting, so in spite of the often terrific writing and intriguing characters i found it a difficult read. the unrelenting character of the sex and violence got me down, and i barely survived the 8% mark, which i swear went on and on and on in a kind of a controlled loop that took two days to plough through. so in summary the work kinda boils down to a profane Pilgrim's Progress, with the progress part a question mark. so after a struggle with myself based on the author's considerable skills, and some curiosity about where he is planning to take this in volume 2, i decided life was short and i just wanted not to spend any more time in this world, regardless of the quality of the writing. so i've given it an excellent mark and just moved on. ( )
  macha | Jan 18, 2024 |
(I started a book blog! Review originally posted here.)

My one-sentence review is that Black Leopard is a gift of a novel. This book is a gorgeous, unsettling dark fantasy about the monsters that pursue us, within and without, and the speculative canon is richer for its publication.

The book is narrated by Tracker, a sort of paranormal detective for hire who ends up on a quest to locate a mysterious young boy. As the adventurers face off against dangerous magic and political conspiracy, Tracker reckons with his own history of personal trauma. There's enchantment, violence, sex, romance, worldbuilding that makes you go "ooh" and "ahh," and a gritty central vein of psychological drama that propels the whole project.

Let's get the setting out of the way. Black Leopard, Red Wolf conjures an African-inspired world that represents an amazing feat of imagination. It teems with magic and monsters and a polyphony of cultures. The prose is exquisite, incorporating oratory and poetry and proverbs, never missing a beat.

It feels as if James is rebuilding the fantasy genre from the ground up, asking us at every moment to rethink our cultural assumptions. I love, for instance, that in this tropical setting, night and darkness are associated with security and community rather than danger. And, absurdly, this is the first time I've read a book in which romantic kissing is described as an unfamiliar foreign custom (making Tracker's first kiss wholly novel to him and surely one of the top ten hottest kisses in English literature).

Ahem. The plot! For the first half of the novel, the story is more than a little unwieldy, crowded with characters and episodes. At times I was discouraged, because this book is long, and picaresque, and I wasn't quite sure where we were going. I had to trust James's vision.

I put my trust in the right author. All the loose threads do come together, weaving a complex tapestry of the personal and political. And then Marlon James sets the whole damn thing on fire.

I think a lot about what it means to trust an author, especially in the context of feminist / anti-racist storytelling. When I don't trust the author, I resort to a "bingo card" approach to judging a work's merits. Passes the Bechdel test? Check. More than one character with the same marginalized identity? Check. No female suffering that furthers the emotional arcs of men? Bingo, and you're done.

Black Leopard is a 620-page novel about toxic masculinity, and while James does okay by my "bingo card" metric, I don't think he's keeping score. The violence in this novel is frequent and graphic. Rape permeates the text. Bodies and body parts are commodities or even comestibles, giving a new dimension to body horror.

James tackles difficult subject matter by writing a book that is deeply reflective and tells the truth as he feels best able to tell it. One graceful way he does this is embodied in the character of Tracker. Tracker has a problem with women, but rather than following the time-honored tradition of Western novels - asking us to read about an antihero protagonist who is a sexual predator - James gives us a queer character whose primary relationships are with men. The book investigates how Tracker's familial and sexual trauma poisons his relationships and sense of self without resorting to the bodies of women as a medium for this narrative.

The violence in this novel is brought into relief by an immense tenderness. Tracker is a killer, but he's also a parent. He spends most of the book trying to rescue children, and he finds healing, of a partial sort, in his relationships. The romance arc is unconscionably sweet considering how brutal this novel is.

Now, the women. By refusing to write a book that centers on female victims, James frees himself to write female characters who are complicated and enigmatic and often quite unlikable. They have their own agendas, their own voices. They are also every bit as damaged as Tracker, and the novel has an interesting thread that reads to me like a critique of the thin revisionist histories produced by a second-wave feminism or old-school Afrocentrism. It's a cautionary tale of inventing a fairy tale history for your identity rather than giving your ancestors permission to be fully human.

Because this is a book about masculinity—or maybe because Tracker is regarding womanhood across so wide a gulf—the women of this book are a little unreal. They take on the character of a Greek chorus, airing their grievances toward men, then going off to be inscrutable. I think probably this is on purpose. On a first read I feel like I'm far from comprehending everything that's going on in this book.

I hope the next two books are a bit tighter, and that they give women a chance to tell their own story, although I can't say for sure that's what James has in mind. When I imagine the female answer to Black Leopard, I unaccountably think of Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, Louis's yin energy followed by Lestat's yang brashness. And then it occurs to me that both Black Leopard and Interview are about queer monster-men who want to protect the innocent and are telling their stories in first person.

So there you go: Black Leopard, Red Wolf - it's Interview With A Vampire if Louis weren't such a wanker. ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
Slow start ( )
  autumnesf | Dec 4, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
... that’s only one example of the many ways in which James’s densely realized epic works to expand the possibilities of the form – the characters not only have desires and act on them, but grapple with problems of identity, duty, loyalty, and their own complicated motivations; at some points, Tracker’s growing rage is such that he says he’s ready to “murder the world;” at others, he acts like a more conventional hero, valuing honor over rewards. With hints of an impending war between the north and the south, and oblique references to lands across the sea, James leaves himself plenty of room for the subsequent vol­umes, and if they match the furious richness and depth of Black Leopard, Red Wolf, they may complete one of the most important and innovative fantasy epics of the century so far.
added by karenb | editLocus Magazine, Gary K. Wolfe (Apr 21, 2019)
 
In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a story’s truth is not measured by how accurately it strives toward representing an objective reality. Rather, truth manifests in a story’s failure: as part of a world, made up of nothing but stories, that is bound to the imperfection of story. At the end of such a story, no truth, simple or otherwise, remains — only the story.
 
It is also welcome to experience a fantasy world that is derived from Africa, with a narrator who is explicitly gay. Tracker is a very human and fallible character, and often very frustrating, but by the end my heart broke with him. I don’t know if the promised sequels will follow Tracker or another character in the same world, but this book feels like a complete story in and of itself – there are no George R.R. Martin cliffhangers here.

I highly recommend this book for all adult fiction collections.
 
If James could go easier on the bloodletting and muscle-bound prose, choose subtlety and sensuousness over teenage-testosterone swagger, there’s still time for him to queer rather than pastiche the franchise fare he’s avariciously eyeing.
 
To read A Brief History of Seven Killings is to feel Kingston assembling itself in James’ mind through the voices and stories of his characters, in much the same way that he constructs the nameless land of Tracker’s birth, a place that is and also isn’t Africa. It may not be real, but listen long enough and you’ll believe in it, too.
added by g33kgrrl | editSlate.com, Laura Miller (Feb 12, 2019)
 

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James, Marlonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Camacho, Pablo GerardoCover Artist.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graham, DionNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yentus, HelenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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.
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Not everything the eye sees should be spoken by the mouth.
When kings fall they fall on top of us.
But I spend most of my days alone, and my nights with people I never wish to see in the morning. I will admit, at least to my darkest soul, that there was nothing worse to be than in the middle of many souls, even souls you might know, and still be lonely.
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Winner of the L.A. Times Ray Bradbury Prize  Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award The New York Times Bestseller Named a Best Book of 2019 by The Wall Street Journal, TIME, NPR, GQ, Vogue, and The Washington Post "A fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made." --Neil Gaiman "Gripping, action-packed....The literary equivalent of a Marvel Comics universe." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times The epic novel, an African Game of Thrones, from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings In the stunning 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. As Tracker follows the boy's scent--from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers--he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying? Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.

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