- 01 Mar 19
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
The new novel from Booker winner Marlon James is a bravura exercise in world building, a celebration of Afro-futurism and a feat of incredible literary imagination. It is also a huge letdown. That’s because Black Leopard, Red Wolf has been pitched as epic fantasy in the tradition of Game Of Thrones – not least by Jamaican-born James, who grew up on The Hobbit but was always troubled by its Euro-centrism.
That he should seek to redress the balance is entirely laudable and his wish to create an African fantasy genre certainly chimes with a wider literary movement.
Yet Black Leopard, Red Wolf is an (admittedly beautifully wrought) slog. The storyline is meandering – lacking the cut and thrust of GoT. Rather, this is allegorical fiction with bells on, as narrator Tracker sets out to find a mission child and along the way tangles with sundry enemies. It’s bewitching if you like that sort of thing – but as fantasy, this is a long way from Westeros.