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Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Title: Black Leopard, Red Wolf 

Author: Marlon James

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Published Date: February 5th 2019

Length: 620 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction

Rating: 2.75/5

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. 


I am not sure if this is a case of high expectation and really sad reality or me just not being the target audience for this or me just not understanding a side of fantasy that is perhaps not my cup of tea?

That was a long sentence and that’s just a small hint of feelings about this book. So, sit back and enjoy this weird and confused review. I am still not sure how I feel about this book other than feeling very sure about it not being my kind of book?

This book was featured in god knows how many blogs and sites and pretty much everywhere and I will admit to being thoroughly intrigued about this one however it didn’t wow me as much as I wanted it to. I don’t think the problem lies in writing because James can write so well and it’s evident in every page. However his idea of fantasy is quite different from mine and while his story is a web and weave of many stories together, it kinda falls apart because of this very reason. It is essentially about a boy and a tracker that’s been sent to find it but it’s also about so much more and it’s the so much more that really complicates my feelings about it.

I really loved the African mythology/touch of it and I wished it was explored more in a less gory/violent way? Also while I absolutely admire the writing, it also never helped me in connecting to the story or the characters. It’s sad when that happens in any story, let alone in fantasy where your imagination so very important. Characters say a lot of things and the history behind those words is never explained in a way that would help connect you to the characters. It’s just fact and a mere tool to let us know some things about the world the characters live in. I think the major reason this book got such a little rating is because of the lack of connection to anything. The plot, the characters, the depth of the story, in general.

There’s another thing that is worth noting. Like myths all over the world, it generally involves humanity either being at its best or its worst and it’s also true in this one too. The violence, the gore, the pedophilia, the excessive misogyny, almost (or not so almost) bestiality, it is presented in a way that made me feel uncomfortable to the point where I had to read something wholesome as a break from it all. Shoving all those things in the name of myths and folklore is not new but something about this ticked me off. And as I told you earlier, I am not sure I will be able to put it to words.

Overall, if you are still willing to read this book, read it with all the warnings in mind and not as a book you would read when you are in a cozy mood. I would not recommend it and I am sadder about it than I thought I would be.


7 thoughts on “Black Leopard, Red Wolf

  1. Great review!!!! My book club chose this one for February but I got around to 10% before I gave up… not at all my thing and I didn’t want to get confused for more than 500 pages…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally get how you feel about this one. It was a hard one for me to get into and I almost gave up on the book. I felt like James made the writing intentionally difficult for the reader to push through. The violence and such also almost turned me off because he piles it in the story, constantly. In the end, I ended up liking the story because of Tracker’s attitude and because the story places some twists on certain trends in fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

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