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Black Leopard, Red Wolf

(The Dark Star Trilogy #1)

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  19,592 ratings  ·  4,501 reviews
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 wo
Hardcover, 620 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Riverhead Books
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Boy Blue If you sat in a room for 3 moons and tried to come up with a book as far away from YA fiction as possible, you wouldn't be able to imagine something h…moreIf you sat in a room for 3 moons and tried to come up with a book as far away from YA fiction as possible, you wouldn't be able to imagine something half as inappropriate for the YA category as this book.(less)
Boy Blue I would say that there's no cliffhanger here. The main narrative thread is wrapped up. There are so many stories within the main narrative arc though …moreI would say that there's no cliffhanger here. The main narrative thread is wrapped up. There are so many stories within the main narrative arc though that could do with more explanation. James has said he's writing a trilogy with 3 different perspectives of a similar timeline. It seems that with future releases we will get a different perspective on the events such that we will have to decide ourselves what is truth and what isn't.(less)

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Average rating 3.43  · 
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Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

to say this isnt for me is an understatement, but to claim this is a book for the masses is just a straight up lie. this has been pitched as one of the most buzz-worthy books of 2019 and i had really high hopes for this. but it takes a very particular kind of person to enjoy this story, and that person is definitely not me. i have a lot of thoughts about this, so bear with me.

honestly, this is the most pretentious book i have ever read. its so fa
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a lot--a labyrinth within a maze, an enigma within a conundrum. Beautifully intense prose that doesn't allow for lazy reading. Immense physicality--a very embodied narrative. The length is... a lot. I don't mind a long book but if you're expecting this to be a traditional fantasy novel you're going to get smacked in the face. The plot is meandering and elusive. There are a hundred characters and settings. Epic is truly the word for this book in terms of scope, narrative, ambition, e ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
looking for great books to read during black history month...and the other eleven months? i'm going to float some of my favorites throughout the month, and i hope they will find new readers!

oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for BEST FANTASY 2019! what will happen?

as you can see, i am very far behind in my reading challenge, and this book is largely to blame. i have been looking forward to this book for a whole year, and i’d planned on spending the day of its release reading all 620 page
chai ♡
book: *is an epic fantasy*

me: hm. ok

book: *is set in a fantasy version of Africa and is deeply rooted in African mythology, complete with vampires, witches, necromancers, shape-shifters and double-crossing ex-boyfriends while on a mercenary job*

me: oh shit. ohgh fuck!!!!!
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It seems rather simplistic to say the book isn’t enjoyable, especially since I doubt that’s what the author was aiming for in the first place, but it’s certainly no easy fare either way. While it’s sold as a fantasy novel, it’s styled more in the vein of the classical poetic tradition, an inventive and challenging blend of imagination, myth, and history. Of course, the African foundation brings with it different types of stories and forms than those which underly the Greek/Roman mythic tradition ...more
Feb 11, 2019 marked it as dnf
Recommends it for: those who appreciate high-brow lit, NOT GOT fans
Recommended to Tatiana by: promise of Afro-centric fantasy
I surrender.

I can handle many things as a reader:

The highly stylized, dense prose, when you don't really understand what's going on but just have to immerse yourself in a narrative until it starts making sense.

All the raping and gore and general fixation on penis as THE center of everyone's world.

Messiness of time lines.

James uses every tool in his toolbox of pretentious literary devices. If he wants to dedicate half a page to explaining that Leopard smells like ass, ok, fine, go for it (#higha
Read By RodKelly
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
By now, one can easily identify certain features that define the "Jamesian" style: cinematic violence, shameless sexuality, perverse, sharp humor and wit, flawlessly rendered settings, and virtuosic, rhythmic language. There is also the strong presence of the fantastic: ghosts and spirits, obeah women and demons who haunt the pages of his visceral stories.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf finds Marlon James at the peak of his powers, unafraid to shed the cloak of realism that won him the Man Booker prize
Nilufer Ozmekik
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: maybe
In the middle of the book, I wanted to close it forever and HIT THE ROAD WITH MY JACK (I meant Jack Daniels bottle) DON’T WANT TO READ THIS NO MORE NO MORE NO MORE!

Or they tried to make me go rehab or read this book! And I said no, no, no (for both of them!!!!)

So I left my two stars, take my cannoli and take the longest swag from my Chardonnay to recover!

I’m not sure I’m reading the same book with the lovers and fans. Maybe after writing so much teasing reviews, the publishers start to pull pran
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
I felt oddly removed from this book at the beginning, and by the end I was crying every other page. So there's that. ...more
Feyzan - The Raven Boy
Feb 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
DNF at 40%

it's a pretty good book, I suppose. if you like them dipped in dog shit, cows piss and utterly rotten.

If i were the publisher and someone had brought this book to me, I'd have advised them to consider getting some help. I don't know what is wrong with Marlon James, but I am pretty sure something is malfunctioning in his brain. Whatever the case, I am really curious to know what was going on in his life when he decided to write this book, and what kind of head space was he in when he
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, recs
I read and reviewed this book for Lambda Literary, where my full review can be found; my thoughts also can be found on my blog.

Full of violence, suspense, and mystery, Black Leopard, Red Wolf charts the adventures of an unforgettable pair of mercenaries as they hunt for a lost boy. Taking place in a fictional continent based on Iron Age Africa, the colossal, six-part tale hybridizes fantasy, historical fiction, and epic. In terse but intricately constructed prose, Tracker, or “Red Wolf,” recount
Spencer Orey
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magic-forests
Imagine the X-Men in a fantastical ancient Africa, on a wild roadtrip through nonstop magical terrors.

It started a bit slow for me, but by 200 pages in, I was hooked. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time. Can't wait for the sequels and the movie.

The violence in this book (especially the ceaseless sexual violence) can be very challenging and disturbing, but I think it makes a strong point that written violence should feel disturbing. It shouldn't be easy to gloss over the battles. Vio
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Mar 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Maniaks. Boring porn & torture addicts. Lovers of disjointed ramblings.
Recommended to ☘Misericordia☘ by: I was deluded by GOT-themed marketing.
Eh, is this book for serious? Was everyone reading some book other than the one I did?

This is supposed to be some kind of African Game of Thrones. At least it's often hyped as such.
Instead, I got something like an obscene cross between:
~ the Aboriginal myths of the African tribes,
~ blatant YA intermixed with hopelessly flat adult situations seemingly happening on each page,
- pointlessly gorish description of a bunch of adventures happening all over the place,
~ writings of some emigree who hasn
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jamaica, 2019-read, usa
Now a Finalist for the National Book Award 2019
Fuck the gods!, as the protagonist of this epic would put it, this clearly is a 5-star-read, and I don't even like fantasy! James takes his readers to an ancient, otherwordly Africa, where themes of Greek and African mythology merge into a sprawling tale about the battles between different tribes and kingdoms, all of them with their own beliefs, powers, and cultures. We join our narrator Tracker, who possesses the gift of a heightened sense of smell
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blood, Sex and Magic
If you’re not put off by the violence and gross bits, then it’s a perfectly normal epic quest adventure.


The plot is like a wild run amuck-garden full of enchantment and evil. The writing is lush almost to the point texture or smell. Equally true for the sensual application of clay as for the torture by those hyena-bitches.

The narrative fragments in places, but some people like it when the camera shakes. Besides, the fellows are cute with their jealous fight and the buffalo i
Daniel B.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I have so many feelings about this one. Can't really see myself giving it a simple 1-5 rating. Needs a heck of a lot of discussion. ...more
Ron Charles
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stand aside, Beowulf. There’s a new epic hero slashing his way into our hearts, and we may never get all the blood off our hands.

Marlon James is a Jamaican-born writer who won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” his blazing novel about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. Now, James is clear-cutting space for a whole new kingdom. “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” the first spectacular volume of a planned trilogy, rises up from the mists of time, glistening like visc
Chris Morgan
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I really, really, really wanted to like this. At first I was deeply engrossed, but within the span of fifty pages, I had all but zoned out. The stream-of-consciousness style of writing with an overuse of pronouns over names, stop-start stacatto style sentences and abundance of coarse sex just rubbed me wrong. The setting is rich, but almost glossed over. Characters are archetypal and dialogue is often a tedious back and forth of riddles where nothing makes sense. James frequently uses peusdo-dee ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Leopard, Red Wolf is an epic sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel from Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James. This is not literary fiction dressed up in genre clothing! What it is: fantasy at its freshest and most exciting, deeply rooted in African history and myth.

Lone wolf Tracker and a rag tag bunch of shapeshifters, witches and mercenaries reluctantly team up to locate a missing child, encountering along the way all manner of winged demons, evil spirits, slavers, white scientists, an
OK, I'm done with this one. I tried. Adding to my DNF pile, not to be revisited. I tried the audio. I love accents and this one was a heavy accent that required a lot of concentration on my part...and constant rewinding. I also had the print which I frequently had to use when I was confused. But it seemed I was more confused reading this one than I wanted to be. It's also very, very graphic. I'm not a prude but it just seemed to me a lot was unnecessary. I was so excited for this one but I've ma ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
My mom got me a book of African folklore when I was a kid but she didn’t check it out very carefully, and the end of the story is that it was full of dicks. Fuuullllll of dicks. I learned a lot from that book. One guy threshes grain with his dick. The trickster Eshu-Elegba is gender-fluid with a ten-foot dick.

“It was a very sensual and sensory world," says Marlon James, who’s woven African folktales - their tricksters and their shape-changing and their dicks - into this magisterial first chapter
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Not only do I not wanna finish this novel. I don't even wanna wanna.

I was so looking forward to the experience. I sang the praises of Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings. I refuse to suffer another 400 pages after surviving 300 pages, nearly half a doorstopper ravaged by the most, and most graphic of, gratuitous anal rapes/assaults of men, women, boys and beasts that have ever been rammed into a few hundred pages of literary fiction.

Mayhaps, this the way of this fantasy world, bu
“Black Leopard, Red Wolf” by Marlon James is the first book on the Dark Star Trilogy. This trilogy has already been dubbed in the publishing world as “the African Game of Thrones” and I will tell you why soon. The publication date for this is January 2019 but thanks to those amazing people over at Riverhead Books I get an early peek into this enthralling tale.

We meet the main character Tracker, a hunter who is know for his nose- once he catches the scent of a person he cannot let it go until
Eric Anderson
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You can watch my over-excited fangirl video review here!

What a wholly-immersive wild adventure this novel is! Going into it I knew Marlon James has a talent for writing intricate sweeping tales from having read his previous novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings". That book greatly enhanced his international prominence having won the Booker Prize in 2015. That same year I was one of the judges of The Green Carnation Prize and we also selected his novel as a winner - not just for the magnificen
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This may be an unpopular opinion.

After reading glowing reviews of this book and listening to several passionate reviews with the author about his research and intentions, I was excited to read this book. It was quite a slog for me but I kept coming back to it to try to see what others were seeing.

Around halfway, the parts did coalesce and I felt I could finally sink into the story, but it also grew in violence at this point. So I take issue with two major components - this reads like a mind-dum
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don’t even know where to begin...

Trigger Warnings: EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF... and then some!

(Seriously, take my review with a grain of salt— I like obscene and weird shit, and that’s certainly not the majority’s cup o’ tea. I like a multi-layered story that may seem pretentious on the surface, but deeply nuanced under the grimy film on top.)

*What follows is not a coherent review, but just tidbits I jotted down while reading:
-The first 100 pages were like a very long Prologue.
K.J. Charles
DNF at 88%, which is to say after nearly 550pp.

There is so much amazing about this book. African inspired fantasy, huge sense of culture, intriguing cast of characters, lots of really chewy stuff to think about, lovely use of language, and some really striking ideas and turns of phrase (the human-centipedy equivalent of what Europeans would call 'black magic' is 'white science'). It is horrifically violent, including much on page gore, slavery, rape and child abuse of the most horrifying sort,
Mel (Epic Reading)
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, disturbing, intense, elaborate and ingenious are all words I'd use to describe Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Marlon James has taken the epic fantasy genre to a new level and in a different direction that feels uniquely his own. The setting is rich with African influences, supernatural beings like I've never seen/heard of before, and a brutality that reflects what life would really be like in a society filled with shape shifters, witches, demons, zombies, vampires and so much more. Many of ...more
Matthew Quann
If a Venn diagram showing who might love Black Leopard, Red Wolf existed, I think you’d find me quite snuggly nestled in its overlapping circles of fantasy and literary fiction.

Since it was announced, I’ve been absolutely jazzed about Marlon James’ new novel. Though it was a lot of work, A Brief History of Seven Killings left an indelible mark on my literary consciousness and imagining what the man behind that novel could produce in the world of fantasy was positively electrifying.

Black Le
Renee Godding
May 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
“Not everything the eye sees should be spoken by the mouth.”
- Quote that pretty much describes my feelings about ¾ of this book

It’s not often that I rate or review a book that I technically haven’t read front to back. Then again, it’s not often either that I deeply and utterly hate a book as much as I did Black Leopard, Red Wolf.
I wanted to DNF this from around page 20, but I read almost 400 pages until I allowed myself to skim the rest, so I feel I’ve read enough to form my opinion on it. Many
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Marlon James is a Jamaican-born writer. He has published three novels: John Crow's Devil (2005), The Book of Night Women (2009) and A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014), winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Now living in Minneapolis, James teaches literature at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to parents who were both in the Jamaican police: his mo

Other books in the series

The Dark Star Trilogy (3 books)
  • Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy, #2)
  • The Boy and the Dark Star (The Dark Star Trilogy, #3)

Articles featuring this book

While books about anti-racism are trending on Goodreads and dominating the bestseller lists right now, some of our favorite Black authors are...
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“Bi oju ri enu a pamo.

Not everything the eye sees should be spoken by the mouth.”
“A man will suffer misery to get to the bottom of truth, but he will not suffer boredom.” 17 likes
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