Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Title: Black Leopard, Red Wolf.
Series: The Dark Star Trilogy #1.
Writer(s): Marlon James.
Publisher: Bond Street Books (Doubleday Canada).
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: February 5th 2019.
Pages: 640.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13:  9780385690324.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.


Life has never been straightforward for many out there. The answers to our questions often lie within more questions and leave us dangling from cliffs praying that our paths will be clearer the next day or the day after. It’s through life trials that we are brought to understand the harshest truths about who we are and who we will become. With every enigma, we introspect and adapt to our reality trying to make the most out of what we have. Sometimes it’s through horrid, intense and insane events that we break the glass around us and truly grasp what we see. Author of the Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James stuns the world with his latest epic fantasy novel marking the first of his Dark Star trilogy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf. With the help of a cast of mysteriously quirky characters, our hero finds himself in the midst of stories within stories that will lead him to more questions and answers that he is not ready for.

What is Black Leopard, Red Wolf about? Set within a distinctive African mythology, the story focuses on a skilled young hunter known as Track who has the ability to track down just about anyone anywhere thanks to his peculiar nose. One day, he is tasked with the mission to track down a boy who disappeared for over three years. As a mercenary who works alone, he’s to break his own rule and pursues his mission accompanied by a handful of peculiar characters, including the shape-shifting man-animal Leopard. As he quickly realizes that his path to discovering this boy is riddled with dangerous obstacles, Tracker is thrown in a whirlpool of doubt and existential questions. To come out of this deadly, murderous and brutal trial unscathed would only be one of the many lies he will soon face head-on.


There are books out there that will not look to sugarcoat the world it builds for the reader. The raw and cruel truth is therefore unleashed on them as they try to hold onto the thinnest ropes that they can find within the narrative filled with smoke and mirrors. These stories will drop you into the abyss with no end in sight, bombard you with surrealism and explode your senses whether you want it all to end or not, leave you helpless and hungry for a safety net that can capture you and secure you from harm’s way. Marlon James’ novel is one of those novels that does not look to give away freebies to the reader. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a psychedelic mosaic that lures you into its intangible reality and invites you to try and untangle the stories that crawl out of every character’s mouths. It doesn’t help when these characters have their own stories to tell, nested within one another, and soaked in lies and deception. To demystify this universe, only the patient would dare and only the perseverant will succeed.

Although the story is cacophonic and tentacular, it is also how it is told that renders this story so compelling, epic and enigmatic. Marlon James does the impossible by bringing to life a universe that encompasses so much history and culture. Every character is oozing with his own personal experience and displays their personalities without a single restraint. Their language, dialogues, and banter make them unique in every sense of the word. But what really stands out is the raw perception of life of every character and the author’s will to keep the entire story as obscene and violent as its reality is. There isn’t a moment throughout this story where you’ll find a cushion to fall back as the violence, the obscenity and the sexuality is cranked up to the highest level possible. This is no story for the faint of heart as the story’s complexity is beyond any ordinary tale.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a chaotic story-telling triumph, by virtue of exquisite prose, that follows a young man, in a world riddled with violence, as he overcomes the vicious obstacles along the way to his self-discovery.


Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!



34 thoughts on “Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

  1. Great review, I’ve been intrigued about this book but haven’t seen too many people here talking about it. The African mythology aspect sounds really interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Huh, that makes me even more interested 😉
        I’m putting it on my TBR, but it’s gotten so long recently I don’t know when I’m going to read it 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good heavens. This book sounds like you need to read it word for word to understand. How long did this type of book take you to read? I don’t know how you can read something like this and work on your rigorous program at the same time. That in itself is mind blowing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If I didn’t already want to read it, this description — “a psychedelic mosaic” — sure would have made me add it to my TBR. Can’t wait to get to this because James is one of my fav authors.

    Liked by 1 person

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