If Marlon James’s Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings was the herald of an extraordinary talent, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the undoubted conformation. Unstoppable, blazing in its kinetic binding of story, incident and myth, James’s fourth novel leaps on the conventional elements of fantasy and forges something absolutely fresh.
At the heart of the novel stalks Tracker, a figure who can seek and find anything. Told with hallucinatory intent from Tracker’s point of view, his bloodied, nightmare quest to find a lost child is a tale of myth within myth. Usually working alone, on this fateful instance Tracker is forced to draw on the help of others, a strange but capable band of misfits. Amongst their number is Leopard, a shapeshifter with whom Tracker shares a complex and savage bond.
Ultimately, their search is less quest than odyssey, its horrors compelling Tracker to question the value of his quarry and his own damaged intent. The first volume in Marlon James’s epic Dark Star Trilogy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is fable for the now, a Beowulf for our darkened century.