Alrighty, lovely people.
I don’t… I honestly don’t know what to say as an intro. It’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. It has a really cool cover, which is why I bought it, but I have never before so strongly recommended for busy readers to not read a book.
*Sigh* Let’s just talk about it, I guess.
Tracker: The main character. It has been said he has a nose (direct quote that was repeated many times). By that, I mean if he smells something of someone’s, he can track their exact path, no matter where they are or how long ago it was. He’s also a loner, for various reasons, and has a wolf eye.
The Inquisitor: A priest tasked with asking Tracker his story. Not very nice, though we don’t hear any direct words from him.
The Leopard: A leopard that can shape shift into a man. He makes Tracker laugh. That’s, like, his whole character, other than that he likes men.
Sogolon: A witch tasked with finding a child. She employs the help of Tracker, Leopard, and a number of others.
Sodogo: Sadogo is an Ogo (basically a giant born by a human) who has a history of killing and is along for the journey. Why is an Ogo called Sadogo, you ask? Is it because he is an Ogo who is sad? Why, yes. Yes it is.
Fumeli: Fumeli is the boy who carries Leopard’s bow and arrow when he’s a cat. They also have sex.
Nyka: This is one of Tracker’s old flames, and the reason he has a wolf eye.
Bunshi: A river goddess (or demon?) who lies to everyone about the boy they’re looking for. She can turn into black sludge.
Mossi: Mossi is a prefect (soldier) in one of the cities Tracker visits. Through an unfortunate series of events, Mossi becomes an unwitting new companion and ally.
The book opens to Tracker in chains, telling the Inquisitor about his young life. The Inquisitor wants to know about five unaccounted years when Tracker reportedly lived in the untamed land of Mitu, and about a young boy who Tracker insists is dead.
Tracker begins to tell of the search for the boy five years earlier.
Tracker met with one of his old friends, the Leopard, in a tavern in Malakal. Leopard tells Tracker of a slave merchant who is hiring a few people to find a boy who he claims was stolen. Among these people are the Ogo Sadogo; the moon witch Sogolon; Bunshi the river goddess, Fumeli, whose life the Leopard saved; Nyka; and a woman named Nsaka and a former mercenary named Bibi. None of these people take kindly to each other, and their fellowship quickly breaks apart.
Along the way, Tracker meets the prefect Mossi who, despite his initial hesitance, realizes something is amiss with the boy and his history. The story told about the boy, and about the deaths of a family of an elder, are lies. What remains of the fellowship aims to find the boy and also the truth.
This book was not made for me. I don’t mean that I simply didn’t like it. I mean that I genuinely think that I am not part of Marlon James’s intended audience. His intended audience is one that likes trying to decipher a structure that makes no sense and is okay with graphic depictions of murder, violence, sex, rape, pedophilia, and bestiality.
My grandma saw me reading this one. “Black Leopard,” she said. “Is that a good book?” To which I simply replied, “No.”
The first section and a half (about 150 pages) could have been told in a much more concise way. The plot is structured as a conversation, where one person hops from subject to subject without resolution. The dialogue has very few speaker tags or descriptors, so I spent an obscene amount of time trying to figure out who was talking. Sometimes, without warning, one person would talk two paragraphs in a row and throw off the flow of the conversation.
I’ll give one thing to Marlon James: though it took him until page 300 (about half the book) to do so, he did make me care about some of the characters. All in all, though, I think it was unnecessarily graphic, meandering, and confusing.
My rating is 1.5 diamonds out of 5. I would not recommend this to a busy reader, or anyone who doesn’t like any of the things I listed above.
Have a good week! See you on Sunday!