"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"-- - (Baker & Taylor)
Hired to find a mysterious boy who disappeared three years before, Tracker joins a search party that is quickly targeted by deadly creatures, in the first novel of a trilogy from the author of A Brief History of Seven Killings. - (Baker & Taylor)
Hired to find a mysterious boy who disappeared three years before, Tracker joins a search party that follows the boy's trail through ancient cities and into dense forests, and encounter creatures intent on destroying them. - (Baker & Taylor)
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. - (Penguin Putnam)
The first installment in the Dark Star trilogy has been touted as "an African Game of Thrones, and, indeed, James, author of the Man Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014), throws pretty much every fantasy and horror creature known into this brilliantly chaotic mash-up of genres and styles. Readers will discover mermaids, vampires, zombies, and witches, along with edge-of-your-seat chills and cheeky humor. James' tale digs its hooks in and never lets go, rather like the claws of the flesh-eating Zogbanu trolls, or the teeth of a vicious ghommid. Yet for all the fantasy and action, James never loses sight of the human story as his hero, Tracker, searches for the truth about a mysterious boy. Tracker's quest across wildlands and through cities brings him tantalizingly closer to the elegant, shape-shifting Leopard. James' world building weaves in cultural references from Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali, Congo, Burkina Faso, and Senegal as he spins his griot's tale of love, revolutions, murder, and magic. Gender-bending romance, fantastical adventure, and an Afrocentric setting make for an inventive and engaging read. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The buzz is growing, thanks to James' powerful draw and the launch of a trilogy with appeal for fans of Afrofuturism and Black Panther. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
BookPage starred review, February 2019
A novel that truly defies all efforts of categorization is a rare thing. When his Dark Star Trilogy was announced, Marlon James' new genre endeavor was dubbed a kind of "African Game of Thrones," an epic saga that merged history and fantasy into something new. The first volume in the trilogy—Black Leopard, Red Wolf—has arrived, and even that rather enticing description doesn't do it justice. James has once again delivered something that must be read to be believed, a majestic novel full of unforgettable characters, gorgeous prose and vivid adventures.
Tracker, James' narrator, is a man without a true name, a man who seems to walk in the margins of society after a difficult childhood turned him into a loner. Still, he is renowned for his "nose," the ability to search for and find lost things with uncanny skill, and so he is called into service to search for a vanished boy. To find the boy, he must also attempt a rare collaboration, teaming up with a strange band of characters, among them a shapeshifter known as Leopard. As the hunt begins and Tracker tells his tale, he must explore not only the significance of the boy he's searching for but also the nature of truth itself.
Tracker's voice—rendered in visceral, evocative prose—is immediately seductive, from his colorful use of profanity to the way he describes not just what happens to him but also how the perception of it all can shift in a moment. It's the kind of voice that can carry you anywhere, and James puts it to good use, propelling the reader forward into an African fantasy landscape that rivals the greatest sword-and-sorcery storytellers in the history of the genre. The ambition is familiar, but the places James takes us are not, and that's an irresistible combination.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf heralds the arrival of one of fantasy's next great sagas and reaffirms James as one of the greatest storytellers of his generation.
This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.
Copyright 2019 BookPage Reviews.
Wrought with blood, iron, and jolting images, this swords-and-sorcery epic set in a mythical Africa is also part detective story, part quest fable, and part inquiry into the nature of truth, belief, and destiny. Man Booker Prize winner James (A Brief History of Seven Killings, 2014 etc.) brings his obsession with legend, history, and folklore into this first volume of a projected Dark Star Trilogy. Its title characters are mercenaries, one of whom is called Leopard for his shape-shifting ability to assume the identify of a predatory jungle cat and the other called Tracker for having a sense of smell keen enough to find anything (and anybody) lost in this Byzantine, often hallucinatory Dark Ages version of the African continent. "It has been said you have a nose," Tracker is told by many, including a sybaritic slave trader who asks him and his partner to find a strange young boy who has been missing for three years. "Just as I wish him to be found," he tells them, "surely ther e are those who wish him to stay hidden." And this is only one of many riddles Tracker comes across, with and without Leopard, as the search takes him to many unusual and dangerous locales, including crowded metropolises, dense forests, treacherous waterways, and, at times, even the mercurial skies overhead. Leopard is besieged throughout his odyssey by vampires, witches, thieves, hyenas, trickster monkeys, and other fantastic beings. He also acquires a motley entourage of helpers, including Sadogo, a gentle giant who doesn't like being called a giant, Mossi, a witty prefect who's something of a wizard at wielding two swords at once, and even a wise buffalo, who understands and responds to human commands. The longer the search for this missing child continues, the broader its parameters. And the nature of this search is as fluid and unpredictable as the characters' moods, alliances, identities, and even sexual preferences. You can sometimes feel as lost in the dizzying machi n ations and tangled backstories of this exotic universe as Tracker and company. But James' sensual, beautifully rendered prose and sweeping, precisely detailed narrative cast their own transfixing spell upon the reader. He not only brings a fresh multicultural perspective to a grand fantasy subgenre, but also broadens the genre's psychological and metaphysical possibilities. If this first volume is any indication, James' trilogy could become one of the most talked-about and influential adventure epics since George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire was transformed into Game of Thrones. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews
Evocative language, intensive architecture, an epic sensibility, and a strong feeling of time and place: the qualities defining the Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings should make for great fantasy, even if this first book in a trilogy goes its own special way. At its heart is Tracker, asked to find a boy who disappeared three years previously and nonplussed to find himself attached to a search party. Drawing on African mythology; I love Marlon James!
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
Library Journal Reviews
As with his Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, James's first foray into fantasy demonstrates epic sweep, an intensely layered structure, and raw if luscious language that pins readers to the page with enough concrete detail to discourage a breezy skim-through. Placed firmly in the genre by its dark magic, unstoppable twists and turns, dangerous kingly aspirations, and imperfect but essential fellow-creature bonding, the narrative is refreshingly distinctive in its grounding in African history and folklore. Its protagonist is the Tracker, a tough-talking loner whose sense of smell leads him to his quarry and here to a momentous task. The opening pages show the Tracker as a young man leaving home both to escape his family and confront his people's enemies, as he refines his skills, discovers a shocking secret about his parentage, helps a group of children (e.g., Smoke Girl, Giraffe Boy) abandoned for their weirdness as cursed, and meets the sardonic, shapeshifting Leopard, with whom he forms a close but testy relationship. But the journey's the thing, as the Tracker is later engaged by a slaver to find a kidnapped child, reputedly the son of a North Kingdom elder who riled the king and was slaughtered with his family. In his efforts, the Tracker grudgingly allows himself to be joined by the Leopard, the Moon Witch Sogolon, the perfidious Nyka, and others. As they move through the Darklands and subsequent fraught territories toward the Southern Kingdom, they encounter witches and demons, flesh-eating trolls, splendidly dressed mercenaries, vampires, necromancers, ancient griots, and a wise, magisterial buffalo. References to harsh pansexual encounters often shift events forward, and the entire story is framed as a tale told to an inquisitor, though we are a long way from understanding from whence he came—this is the first in the "Dark Star" trilogy. VERDICT As the Tracker realizes, "The only way forward is through," and it's the same for readers. Highly recommended for fantasy lovers who welcome a grand new challenge, as James launches an unglorified if gloriously delivered story that feels eminently real despite the hobgoblins, and for literary readers, eager to see the world—and James's particular talents—in a new light. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/18; Editors' Spring Picks, p. 22.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Booker winner James (A Brief History of Seven Killings) kicks off a planned trilogy with a trek across a fantastical Africa that is equal parts stimulating and enervating. Centering on the search for a lost boy, the plot is relatively straightforward, though the narrator, Tracker, moves his story obliquely "as crabs do, from one side to the next." Tracker is a "hunter of lost folk," an ornery loner with an extraordinary nose that lets him pick up the scent of his quarry from miles away. Along with several other mercenary hunters, he is hired by a slave trader to find a kidnapped boy, though who the boy is and why he is so valuable are mysteries to Tracker. Storytelling is a kind of currency in this world, as people measure themselves not only by their violent feats but also by their skill in recounting them, and they have plenty of material: giants, necromancers, witches, shape-shifters, warring tribes, and unspeakable atrocities. Indeed, there is a narrative glut, which barely lets readers acclimate to a new, wondrous civilization or grotesque creation before another is introduced. It's altogether overwhelming, but on the periphery of the novel are intriguing ideas about the performance of masculinity, cultural relativism, kinship and the slipperiness of truth. Though marred by its lack of subtlety, this is nonetheless a work of prodigious imagination capable of entrancing readers. (Feb.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.