James, Marlon. “Black Leopard, Red Wolf”, Penguin, Random House, 2019.
Part of “The Dark Star Trilogy”
“Black Leopard, Red Wolf” by Marlon James is the first book on the Dark Star Trilogy. Although I really do not like or read science fiction, I was drawn to this because of its author. I understand that “The Dark Star Trilogy” is being hailed as “the African Game of Thrones”.
Tracker is a hunter who is known for being able to find people based on smell and this skill gets him a chance to look for a boy who disappeared under very mysterious circumstances three years ago. Tracker learns that he is not the only person looking for the boy, and the search turns into a team effort, but not everyone on the team are mysterious characters with secrets and hidden agendas.
Tracker and his team go from one city to a next, through enchanted forests and magical doors. Their journey is filled with twists and mythical creatures intent who want them dead. The group ends up getting divided and mistrust is everywhere with them causing Tracker to question why he decided to find this boy and who he can trust to help him.
Marlon James’ has filled his story with very graphic scenes both sexually and in the description of how persons died. Some readers might have difficulty with the sheer eroticism but there is so much more.
As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: who this boy is and why has he been missing for so long; why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him and who is telling the truth, and who is lying.
James draws on African history and mythology and his own rich imagination to give us a breathtaking saga that immediately pulls us in and keeps us reading. The story is full of surprises and quite profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both. We enter a world of were-hyenas, shapeshifting talking leopards, vampires, carnivores, witches, warlocks, slavers, date feeders, and all manner of sexual fetishes and deviants. The fantasy comes from African folktales and legends. It is fascinating and strangely foreign and unfamiliar.
The book is quite erotic and lyrical, very funny at times and very dark at others. If you want to understand why I consider it to be LGBT fiction, you will have to read it yourself.