Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1) by Marlon James
Published by: Narrative Landscape
Release Date: April 2019
Source: Publisher (Review Copy)
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 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 truths, the limits of power, the excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all.
It took me a while to put my thoughts together on Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Truth is, I couldn’t decide if I love it or hate it. These two extremes aren’t the only emotions I allow myself when reading a book and I now realise I put myself in this conundrum because the lovers of BLRW love it ridiculously while the haters can’t stand it. Where then do I place the one question I had when I finally finished reading this book?
Does Black Leopard Red Wolf need to exist?
Now, a few things before you let out that gasp or finish that nod. Let’s talk about the things I enjoyed about this epic story:
- Tracker: I loved this character so much, in all his badass don’t-give-a shit glory. I don’t have the words to describe what makes this character so brilliant, I’m sure Marlon James would do that job better than I could. All I know is I enjoyed the fact that Tracker could dish it out as well as he could take it.
- Heartache: My heart is a tough nut to crack if I do say so myself. And it had been a while since an author had me dropping a book for fear of what was going to happen and then pick it right up because I needed to know. In this regard, I could see how Black Leopard Red Wolf could be described as GOT-esque.
- Thrills: I believe this novel needs to be reclassified a thriller. It’ll have your pulse racing faster than any James Bond movie wishes it could. Honestly, I don’t think a movie would do this book justice, maybe a series. A TV series would be so much better for the intricacies that need to be brought to life.
- Love: What’s a good book without a love story? In Black Leopard Red Wolf, love manifests itself in ways you wouldn’t expect. It’s healing, destructive, addictive in almost equal doses.
So far so good, right? You can imagine how weird I felt when I couldn’t figure out what to do with this story when it was over. Is The Dark Star trilogy one I’m willing to invest myself in going forward? I don’t think so.
Black Leopard Red Wolf is as beautiful as it is destructive and gory and oh so violent. Sometimes, it felt, just for the sake of it. Now, I know someone would say, “But that’s Marlon James for you”, and that’s fine but still unnecessary to the heart of this story.
This is not to say that I wish the story was cleaner. On the contrary, I love the blood and gore as much as the next gal. What I wish is that it didn’t overshadow a fantasy so beautifully imagined.
This is a book that intends to consume you. There’s no room for leisure or laziness, you’re either all in not at all. I won’t recommend this if you’re reading for fun or just trying to smash goals this year. I recommend this to the curious.
Because only curiosity will keep you coming back for more. For this purpose, Black Leopard Red Wolf is completely worth it.