NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NO THANK YOU NOPE 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 far beyond high brow, its in an obnoxious league all on its own james employs every literary device possible to transform his words into riddles, half truths, and vague mysteries as a reader, i dont mind having to sometimes work for a story some of the best stories take patience to dissect deeper meanings but what is really happening here is marlon james hiding behind his fancy words and complicated sentences to distract the reader from the lack of substance and development the rhetoric in this story is dense, convoluted, and bogged down with false promises of something worth reading the prose is evasive and meandering, dragging the reader around and around in circles without an end in sight its honestly a disorganised and conceited mess also, the amount of lewdness in the book is obscene im not easily deterred by things sexual in nature, but this is too extreme for me a big neon flashing trigger warning is necessary for the following rape, gang rape, pedophilia, bestiality, incest, mutilation of bodies, graphic murder, physical and emotional abuse, repetitious orgies, torture, misogyny, etc and none of it has any relevance to the plot or progression of the storyline i understand that mythology doesnt shy away from such brutality, but there is a difference between being aware and just being down right offensive and this book is the latter such a lack of humanity ensures there is nothing redeemable or relatable about this book had this been a simple story about a tracker and a shapeshifter in search of a missing boy, deeply rooted in african mythology and cultural folklore fantasy, i would have loved this to bits the concept is phenomenally creative but this book is nothing that it claims to be so if you want to read a book that deceivingly promises a story lush with cultural richness and imaginative fantasy, but is polluted with haughty notions of grandeur and overwhelmingly unnecessary vulgarity, then look no further because this is the book for you okay rant over 1.5 stars 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 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 but the same fundamental questioning is at its heart Like Ovid s Metamorphoses, it s an interconnected compilation of stories, featuring representations of violence and transformation throughout Here, the overarching narrative is the tracking of a lost child, but this is a book of movement and journey, change and discovery There s so much to it than this one tale, instead it s a meandering exploration of an unknowable world And yet, it s precisely this which is its downfall The pacing is uneven and the whole experience one of crazy disorganisation It reads like a dreamscape, full of portent and stark brutality The writing is often staccato, list like, with small, well crafted sentences that are a perfect foil for Marlon James ability, showcasing his striking imagery and unusual connections Yes, it s beautiful at times, but, for me at least, emotionless There s so much power in the description, so much said with so little my father was looking to win, not to play How much history and painful knowledge is in those few words How much does it say about the relationship between father and son And yet because the structure reads like this happened and this happened and this happened, I could see these moments and what they re supposed to mean, but I couldn t feel them Interactions are like theatrical exchanges, statements than conversation, everything performative and apparently profound Characters have limited realism, some act as symbols, some merely a means of upping the violence levels still further When read all at once, it s an endless and eventually numbing litany of misery and horror that loses any meaning.What s even distancing is the sordid humanity The myth I read, and I mean real myth not the sanitised Disney versions, the it feels like an endlessly repetitive orgy of rape and violence, both human and divine And this is no exception The misogynistic narrator is obsessively sexual and the book is filled with references to and descriptions of abuse, rape, gang rape, borderline bestiality, and other sexual weirdness that seems to have no real relevance Right in the opening pages Tracker taunts his jailor for wanting to have sex with a child I don t usually do trigger warnings but this book should have big flashing neon signs Actually, I don t really know how much of this stuff was in the book as a whole was but it felt like too much Altogether tiresome and unnecessary It takes a lot to make me flinch but the amount of times I wondered why the hell I was continuing to read this book was way frequent than I d usually put up with And why Because it s Marlon James Because he s this cool as shit writer and I m the one missing something Maybe I am, but I can t bring myself to care that much.Would I recommend it No Not as a novel to sit down and lose yourself in As an exploration of folklore and myth, sure As an example of a particular style of writing, definitely All I d say is before you pick up this book, know what you re getting into ARC via publisher 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 pages cover to cover, with occasional breaks for restorative snacks that was the plan.insert laughter of god s instead, this took me nearly a week to get through it s certainly possible for a human to read it in one very intense day, but it would not have been enjoyable, to me this is a book that needs to steep and settle you need to live in its world for than one day it is my favorite kind of book brutal situations, written beautifully.it s as violent as The Book of Night Women, as sprawling and circuitous as A Brief History of Seven Killings and someday i will read my copy of John Crow s Devil so i can provide a third simile here it is a dense book, and i can see it losing some readers along the way marlon james is a phenomenal writer, but he has no interest in holding your readerly hand keep up or don t, it s all the same to him his books aren t difficult to understand the challenge here isn t tied to his language or concepts, both of which are very approachable, but in your having the patience to see the big picture he s tossed you somewhere in the middle of You have come for a story and I am moved to talk, so the gods have smiled on both of us.and the imprisoned tracker will talk telling all the stories that brought him to this place, and all the stories he heard along the way so many stories, so many characters, so many digressions tucked within digressions, all hiding tricky sticky things whose import you won t understand until much later.but what of the child, whose death tracker gleefully reports on the very first page, the little boy who disappeared and whose safe return was so essential to the future of the kingdom that tracker and a ragtag band of mercenaries, shapeshifters, witches, etc were hired to locate him and bring him back what about him as tracker will accuse another character, Right now, your story has meat where you will not talk, bone where you do james will make you work for his meat, but even his bones will satisfy you and so will his filthy double entendres and euphemisms, if you re into that sort of thing i sure am there s a lot here i m still kind of reeling from it i don t have a strong epic fantasy background, and going into this despite all the maps of imaginary realms and the large cast of characters listed in the front matter, i felt reasonably confident, figuring how epic fantasy can this really be, coming from a man who has never written epic fantasy before it ll just be james trying on an epic fantasy coat to see what it s like, yeah but no, it s the real deal i don t know where this beast was nestling in the folds of his historical crime fictiony brain, but apparently there is nothing he can t do don t get me wrong, there are times i was confused as hell because he ll mention something he hasn t yet explained, so you think, wait, did i miss something don t worry you didn t it s coming but it can be a lot to absorb there are a ton of characters, most of them are unreliable narrators, many of them have special abilities or limitations, and all of them will shift relationship statuses throughout the course of the book from friends to allies to foes to lovers, or a combination plate of those aforementioned things, there are magical doors that my brain doesn t understand, stories will be told than once, the devil is always in the details and there are a lot of details there is also a buffalo and an anansi spiderman who jizzes webbing but nearly all your questions will eventually be answered.greg asked me at several points during my reading of this how it was and every time, to his immense frustration, i would say, it s really good because, unless you are michiko kakutani, this is a hard book to talk about without sounding like you re recounting a fever dream her review is here.and even though she fails to mention the jizzwebbing, it s still a much better review than whatever it is i m doing here trigger warnings all of them and many that never existed before this book in conclusion, a tremendous achievement i hope he s not gonna george r r martin this trilogy, because i m already ready to give him another week of my life, reading challenge be damned play me out, marlonDay seven, I saw that I was still a boy There were men stronger, and women too There were men wiser, and women too There were men quicker, and women too There was always someone or some two or some three who will grab me like a stick and break me, grab me like wet cloth, and wring everything out of me And that was just the way of the world That was the way of everybody s world I who thought he had his hatchets and his cunning, will one day be grabbed and tossed and thrown in with shit, and beaten and destroyed I am the one who will need saving, and it s not that someone will come and save me, or that nobody will, but that I will need saving, and walking forth in the world in the shape and step of a man meant nothing i found it very helpful to read the character list description at the front before starting each section i take squeamish delight in my own triggers, and this book has both eye trauma AND birds, so for days 2 11 19 nobody loves no one review to come 2 5 19signed copy BOOM today, we read 2 4 18 so, when penicillin came round, and everyone was all stunned and grateful and, ohhhhhh, we didn t realize how badly we needed this that s me right now wanting this with a fierceness.come to my blog book is an epic fantasy me hm okbook 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 I felt oddly removed from this book at the beginning, and by the end I was crying every other page So there s that. 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 I can deal with these things, and I am willing to work hard while reading.But this story needed at least a little bit of grounding in something real, something relatable and human The last straw for me was the realization that James would never allow his characters to talk to each other in any other way but riddles, faux deep statements and stories about killings and rapes of children, women and men What s left to relate to then How to connect with a story that doesn t give you anything to tether you to it I can t do it. 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 in favor of a full blown, epic fantasy saga And at a time when genre snobbery is at an all time high In the hands of this master novelist, the genre s conventions are blown apart and reassembled as something bold and subversive, aware of its capaciousness but incredibly nuanced and carefully built It is a novel that resists categorization and description, set as it is in an impeccably and exhaustively researched world of folklore and myth drawn from regions of Central and West Africa, and exploratory of contemporary themes of gender equality and political corruption, queer identity and the exploration of love and glorious sex between black men The characters in this novel are sublimely realized So much care went into their conception and I was stunned by the depth and range of emotion MJ was able to coax from his sundry band of flawed creatures Defying the Western belief in one definitive version of a story, BLRW is structured as an oral epic in which stories lead to stories which lead to yet , ultimately providing the reader with a conundrum of reliability who tells the truth and whose story is being told Marlon James chooses to leave that entirely up to the reader There are many elusive layers of detail to sift through from the very beginning a test of endurance, almost asking do you really want to hear this story But once past its shadowy prologue, the story proceeds in a frenetic rush of action that totally engages the senses, creating an insanely, compulsively addictive reading experience Read this for the beautiful depiction of queer love that is the true heart of the novel, a total subversion of masculine isms and male sexuality in literature Or read it for the dejected women who rail against a corrupt patriarchy, giving voice to the trauma and abuse suffered at the hands of thoughtless men Read it for the thrill of the quest, the adventure, replete with monsters and demons, cities in the sky and markets where witches trade in baby parts, among countless other darkly fantastic elements The immensity of adventure in this novel lends itself to an immensity of purpose which takes familiar novelistic themes and fantasy genre tropes, and radically molds them into a form both new and hypnotic in its scope and imaginative fearlessness. 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 working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape shifting man animal known as Leopard.Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written an adventure that s also an ambitious, involving read Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf explores the fundamentals of truths, the limits of power, the excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all. 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, recounts not just his quest to find the lost boy but also his own coming of age, lineage, romances, and The novel reads as a collection of interlocked stories set in a civilization in crisis, populated by troubled mercenaries, unforgiving elites, and fantastical creatures as expansive as the plot is, it centers on the intimate bond between the two eponymous Black heroes, Red Wolf and Black Leopard, as they struggle to survive, communicate, and love in an era beset by armed conflict and social tension The novel is inexpressibly compelling, and the trilogy it begins seems sure to become a genre bending classic. 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 Violence shouldn t ever feel anodyne But it can make for very tough reading at parts.There s a lot to think about here with the ways that histories of Africa and African peoples, tropes, and cultures from different parts of the content are freely mixed It s worth talking about when and how that might be problematic, but I m going to stay away from all that here because the end result was such an incredible world I hope this book inspires people to read pre colonial African history and learn about the diversity in the continent today, especially how different the regions are.The book is amazing overall Go read it.