Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Marlon James. Riverhead, $30 (640p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2017-1
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.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2018
Release date: 02/05/2019
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 640 pages - 978-0-385-69032-4
Book - 978-0-7352-2019-5
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-52682-7
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-52684-1
Paperback - 1152 pages - 978-1-984882-90-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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