Is Black Leopard, Red Wolf the “African Game of Thrones”?

If there was an award show or some event that celebrated the best clickbait headlines on the internet, this one would probably win something. And this year’s BAITY goes to NAG, hooray. It’s shameful really, but it also writes itself. But this is definitely something you’ll want to have a look at.

It’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a new novel by 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James, and a fantasy epic that mixes a lot of unconventional things into the calabash – witches, vampires, and African folklore. James’s love of comic books and all things fantastical has helped guide this novel – the first volume of the planned Dark Star trilogy, described by the Jamaican author as the “African Game of Thrones” before its launch this week – to completion.

James has since claimed that the “African Game of Thrones” thing was a “joke”, but it’s kind of stuck. And with its adult themes of politics, violence, and sex, the comparison is perhaps appropriate.

In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, protagonist Tracker is a bounty hunter who must find a missing boy. Tracker (who can apparently find anyone by… smell) and a group of unlikely companions – including a shape-shifter and a water goddess – find themselves working together to discover what happened to him. The adventure takes readers across Africa, through forests and ancient abandoned cities, and we’re pretty sure there’ll be a lot of bushveld in-between. As they search they’re attacked and hampered the whole way. It certainly sounds like a good tale, as well as a good mystery to solve.

But wait, there’s more. Remember when we told you this was a trilogy – well, the next two books tell the same story, but from a different point of view. The author equates this to the traditional African way of telling stories where there are a number of versions of the same tale and the reader or listener must decide which one is true. It’s all very fascinating.

The book is available online now or you can probably buy it in hardcover format in a shop somewhere soon. I’m getting it right now myself and during my next holiday I’m going to find out what it’s all about. I might come back and tell you, but only if you read something yourself. Or watch the movie adaptation by Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan.

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