This review is a tough one and it feels likes I’ve been waiting forever to write it. Well in all honestly I’ve been waiting forever to finish this book! This is a book that so many people have been waiting for. I was incredibly hyped for this book (which may not have worked out in my favour), so without further ado here we go.
Synopsis – (from Goodreads):
“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?”
I don’t even know where to start with this one. For one thing I am using this as one of my “Books by my DNA” picks. It wasn’t initially on my list, but when reading it I felt that it would be the perfect choice. I will start by talking about what I loved about this book.
The first thing I loved was the African-inspired mythology, African setting, and the inspiration of the oral story tradition. This book was dripping in African mythology and feeling. Readers are immersed in the world James imagined with monster, witches, shape-shifters, warring tribes, and far away cities. The locations are beautifully fleshed out. They are filled with scenery and people and smells and textures that feel absolutely real.
Our main character Tracker is an evolving character. We hear about the majority of his life and see him grow from a teenage to an adult. We see him go through struggles and difficult decisions. We see him lose, and lose, and lose. He is flawed and hot-headed. He is jaded and difficult, making him a complicated character. I also really love the action in this book. There are so many moments of great conflict and action, so many unexpected moments. For a lot of this book I had no idea what was really happening (in a good way).
James also puts gender and sexuality at the forefront of the book. He talks a lot about what it means to be a man or a woman, how they should act, and why those roles exist or more accurately, if they should. This book has a lot of LGBTQ+ themes. It is filled with characters who love who they love regardless of gender, but there are also characters who don’t agree with that or who experience prejudice and hate because of it. I loved the new and different take on sexuality and gender, it was refreshing and interesting.
This book is long, weighing in at over 600 pages, and I am no stranger to big books, but there were points where it just dragged on. For me, I like books filled with action and plot. I want to be whisked away into the story. However, there were moments where I was pushing myself to keep reading, to just get past these chunks of the story where nothing was really happening. This book took me about 2 months to finish because I would just put it down for some time and not have the urge to pick it back up again. There are also major trigger warnings for this book. From gore to rape to everything in between and some things you’ve never thought of, there is a lot in this book. Sometimes it was jarring and intense to get through.
I will not say that this is a bad book. I would still recommend it to people who enjoy high fantasy. Black Leopard, Red Wolf has been compared to Game of Thrones and in some ways I agree with this, though I have only read the first book in the series. It goes on and on, if filled with all the gory details and really does feel like a high fantasy. I so wanted to love this book. I had hopes it would be my favourite of the year, but it missed the mark for me. It felt like it went on forever and didn’t give me that hard hitting impact in the end. I absolutely got a lot out of it, but it isn’t going on my all time favourites list.
Rating: 3.5/5 (This rating was so hard to come to!)