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Black Leopard, Red Wolf

The Dark Star Trilogy, Book 1
Written by: Marlon James
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 24 hrs and 2 mins
3 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 52.63
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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best seller

"A fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made." (Neil Gaiman)

"Gripping, action-packed.... The literary equivalent of a Marvel Comics universe." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

The epic novel, an African Game of Thrones, from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings 

In the stunning 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. 

As Tracker follows the boy's scent - from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers - he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying? 

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has crafted a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving story. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.

©2019 Marlon James (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

“Marlon James is one of those novelists who aren’t afraid to give a performance, to change the states of language from viscous to gushing to grand, to get all the way inside the people he’s created.... [Black Leopard, Red Wolf] looks like another great, big tale of death, murder and mystery but more mystically fantastical.... Not only does this book come with a hefty cast of characters (like Seven Killings), there are also shape shifters, fairies, trolls, and, apparently, a map. The map might be handy. But it might be the opposite of why you come to James - to get lost in him.” (The New York Times)

“James is a professed fantasy nerd, so Black Leopard, Red Wolf will certainly appeal to fans of all the well-acknowledged authors with at least two initials - George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, etc. But if you’ve read James’ 2014 novel A Brief History of Seven Killings (decidedly not a sci-fi or fantasy book but a 700-page world-building epic about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley), you’ll drag yourself to the midnight queue to buy Black Leopard regardless of the whole Game of Thrones selling point.” (Huffington Post

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the kind of novel I never realized I was missing until I read it. A dangerous, hallucinatory, ancient Africa, which becomes a fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made, with language as powerful as Angela Carter's. It's as deep and crafty as Gene Wolfe, bloodier than Robert E. Howard, and all Marlon James. It's something very new that feels old, in the best way. I cannot wait for the next installment.” (Neil Gaiman)

“James' sensual, beautifully rendered prose and sweeping, precisely detailed narrative cast their own transfixing spell upon the reader. He not only brings a fresh multicultural perspective to a grand fantasy subgenre, but also broadens the genre's psychological and metaphysical possibilities. If this first volume is any indication, James' trilogy could become one of the most talked-about and influential adventure epics since George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire was transformed into Game of Thrones.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)  

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

confusing

great writing, stellar performance....but so very confusing. not easy to follow though I enjoyed all the character interactions. a weird one for sure

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  • Lisa Gray
  • Houston, TX United States
  • 2019-02-07

Opaque. And hard to care about.

After reading the New Yorker's profile of Marlon James, and seeing Neil Gaiman's blurb, I had extremely high hopes for this book: "An African 'Game of Thrones,'" people were calling it -- or maybe, given James' literary pedigree, an African "American Gods." I was hoping for a smart, fast-moving page-turner. (Or the audio equivalent of a page-turner, anyway.)

That's not this book. It's more like a really long tone poem related to African mythology. I stuck with it a long time, assuming that all my confusion would be resolved, that soon the new world being conjured would snap into focus and I'd start caring about all the violent action. That doesn't happen.

Dion Graham's voice was marvelous. But a marvelous voice alone can't sustain a 24-hour-long audiobook.

54 of 64 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-02-21

Overrated

Excessive sex, nothing like an African Game of Thrones as it was described to me. Returned after 10 chapters.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • A. Cohen
  • Seattle, WA
  • 2019-02-08

Not your father’s Game of Thrones

The mythology and cultures this book draws from is not what most of us are familiar with. This may be off putting to some. I found this book to be wonderful in many ways. But also challenging to get into. If I hadn’t been familiar with James’ last great book I might have bailed. Ultimately well worth the effort.

Narration was a little difficult for me to understand sometimes because of the accents used and the many exotic names and places. I imagine this is how the author wanted it read, and it got easier for me after a couple of hours, so I don’t disagree with the choice, but I used a hard copy to read along with most of the time and that made the audiobook much more enjoyable for me.

19 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-02-19

Needs a little work

I really wanted to like this book... I was confused from the start, there was no background information no really setup for the story. It’s just started, and you just had to put it together as best you can.. 4hours in and I had to stop. I’m so confused. I think this story could be great but maybe some work done to it first. Maybe I will try again to listen in a few months.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Aaron Frederick
  • Colstrip, MT United States
  • 2019-02-19

don't believe hype

did not even finish book. I enjoyed hearing African myths and beliefs but story choppy and to many stories in story. not in same league as Tolkien or game of thrones.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Jaesauv
  • Southern California
  • 2019-02-16

Horrible

I wanted to like it, but similar to "The History of 7 Killings" by the same author, it rambles on and on and is very confusing. Really never cared about the characters even from the beginning.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Charles H. Strawter
  • The Antelope Valley, CA USA
  • 2019-02-15

Fantastic tale, skillfully narrated

This story was so well spun by James and so well read by Graham that I was able to get over the excess of piss, shit, and homo erotica. Great characters throughout.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael - Audible Editor
  • 2019-02-08

A Genre and Perception-Bending Adventure

I reviewed this book for Audible Editors Select, here is that review:

"I’m not claiming any credit for finding this one, as it has already become something of a movement, but I am definitely swept up in the transcendent force that is Marlon James and Dion Graham. I saw Neil Gaiman described the setting as "hallucinatory," and I haven’t heard a more apt description, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is an aimless, vague, or overly literary effort. It is absolutely riveting: My "listening hours per day" have more than tripled since I started listening to Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Word is Marlon James spent a long time researching African languages as well, and Dion Graham just nails all of the different accents. But the merits of Graham’s performance aren’t limited to language or accents. In every minute there is a new threat, a new scheme, and a new astoundingly unique voice; be it beast, witch, demi-god, or amorphous liquid assassin. I can only imagine Graham took a good break after this performance because the sheer number of different voices would put any narrator to the test, and he aced it."

I'm still listening to the book at this point, I have about 5 hours left and it is only getting better so I remain really excited about this series as a whole. Also, it turns out that Michael B Jordan has optioned the story and will produce it as a movie, which tells me this is going to be something really very big.

The first hour or two are admittedly slower than the rest of the book. They introduce the character and setting from a place that is purposefully distant from the core action/plot-line. It's an important introduction though, so just stick with it!

Marlon James has a firmly rooted literary background and his style is as important to the book as the plot. And it definitely does pay off, because the story becomes a holistic experience.

The narration is absolutely top-notch, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better performance than Dion Graham's here. I stand by that statement wholeheartedly.

21 of 31 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Hobbes in Dobbs
  • Dobbs Ferry, NY
  • 2019-02-16

Narrator’s Accent

The accent of the narrator makes it hard to understand the words. After awhile of frustrated listening, I went to look for another version (with a different narrator), but alas, it does not exist...at least on audible. I can understand the desire to try to match the voice to the tale, but his deep voice tends to muddle the words at times. It is a shame, since he has a beautiful voice, and occasionally he slips out of the accent, but not long enough for me to casually listen. If I were listening with over-ear headphones, and not through speakers, that also might help, but I am listening through speakers mostly, while I am cooking or cleaning.

It is a long book, but recently released, so if the people who produced the audiobook wanted to take the reviews to heart, they might have the reader re-record without the accent.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Xavier Marrero
  • 2019-02-09

Narrator and clearness

Narrator is difficult to understand. As an audio book, narrative should be clean and clear. Sometimes a heavy accent can be appealing on a tv show or movie to set the mood but in an audio book it should be clear and easy to listen for everybody.
Unfortunately this book has only one option at the moment and I had difficulties understanding the narrator. Will look for this audiobook in another app.
Thanks.

17 of 30 people found this review helpful