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Marlon James' Black Leopard gets thumbs up

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1), the new book by Marlon James, was released yesterday. Based on reviews from leading literati in the United States, it is expected to be another strong seller for the Jamaican author.

Distributed by Riverhead Books, its main character is Tracker, a hunter with a special gift, who is hired to find a lost child in a fictional African country. The boy is supposedly heir to the throne of an empire on that continent.

Writing in the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani likened 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf's plot to three mega-grossing Hollywood movies.

“In keeping with familiar fantasy and sci-fi templates (from Harry Potter to The Matrix to The Lion King), the plot of Black Leopard, Red Wolf retraces many of the steps that the scholar Joseph Campbell described as stages in the archetypal hero's journey. Like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, Tracker sets off on a journey that will take him away from home — to distant lands and kingdoms, where he faces a series of dangerous tests,” she wrote.

Entertainment Weekly magazine agreed with the New York Times' assessment of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

“James' visions don't jettison you from reality so much as they trap you in his mad-genius, mercurial mind. ... Drenched in African myth and folklore, and set in an astonishingly realised pre-colonised sub-Saharan region, Black Leopard crawls with creatures and erects kingdoms unlike any I've read... This is a revolutionary book,” read their review.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the follow-up to A Brief History of Seven Killings, an epic read inspired by events that took place in Jamaica during the 1970s, such as the assassination attempt on Bob Marley in December that year.

That book earned Kingston-born James the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2015. It was was picked up last September by American streaming company Amazon Prime, which is producing a series based on it.

James' books prior to A Brief History of Seven Killings are John Crow's Devil, which came out in 2005, and The Book of Night Women, which was published four years later. The 49-year-old teaches literature at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota.