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An entertaining novel that gives insight into African mythology and creatures of lore. While I wasn't the biggest fan of the author's writing style at times, and found it a little depressing to read if the depiction of some tribal rituals and beliefs is in any way a true reflection of current culture, it was overall an enjoyable book.
If you don't go in looking for a happy ending then you'll probably enjoy it more. It's a big book but very easy to read.
COULD NOT get into this. Too much violence, sex, and violent sex. Plus, it was too jump around confusing for me.
This story was a ride and the ending was a trip. It had the quality of a dream. Though upon further thought, the whole story had that quality. It almost felt like one of those mid-century lava lamps, a little trippy and a lot fluid. There's a flood of shape-shifting in this novel, by creature and story. The landscapes were many, some magical and some not, some of the dream world and some of the waking world, some of the living and some of the dead, and all sorts of lands that had no such defining borders.
The novel is a straight-up adventure story dipped in folklore, with swaths of humor and thought-provoking questions and pearls of wisdom. Though it never preaches, only ponders. The characters all seemed original and even though there are so many characters, and at times they are short-lived, each presence was palpable. There was an intensity to all the characters that made them seem very real.
The story touches on many themes and things. Truth is a huge one as is history and power. It is asked in the novel what makes a better warrior: one with nothing to lose or one with something to fight for (or with everything to lose). If you have nothing to go home to does that help or hinder a warrior on a mission? It's a loaded question. One that is never completely answered, but still is an excellent question to leave in the reader's lap. The story touches on dualities of gender, beast and human, time and space, and life and death. The lines get blurry on all fronts. One gets the sense that nothing is ever what it seems and is subject to change at any moment.
Even though this novel is of the fantasy genre, its prose is elevated to the literary realm. The quality of writing is beyond exceptional. With the exception of a few parts, the reading was a lot clearer than I was expecting. James is an excellent writer that gets deep in the weeds. But he starts off slow, with only one narrative focus, to introduce us to this strange world.
The first line was powerful: "The child is dead." This is followed by, "There is nothing left to know." The beginning of this story was very telling of the journey the reader is about to embark on. And make no mistake, the reader is taken on the journey. Forget thinking you will be allowed to just sit in your comfy armchair, keeping danger at arms length. It's just not that kind of read. For much of the novel, I felt outside of the characters. I was rather right there beside them. It was an interesting vantage point and one not without merit. A clever anchor.
At one point in the novel, a character states that looking for meaning will only drive someone mad. It may drive the reader mad if they try to wrap this novel up in a neat little bow of meaning. It's a messy novel with too many facets. It may behoove the reader to take some gems as a parting gift and leave the story in all its messy glory. One thing that was given a lot of space was about truth to power. How none of us owns the truth and nothing can be done to make truth not truth. Truth is truth even after rulers who spread lies that take root in every man's heart. The manifestation of this is in characters that sing history that doesn't pander to a leaders lies, but which garners it's wrath. It seemed like they were a manifestation of the duality of power and truth. While the former can never truly quell it, it can cast truth as a lie for a time.
The disparate pieces pulled together the last 100 pages. The story ended up being so rich and vibrant and ominous and over-the-top, while at the same time deep and timeless. Ultimately, we each have to answer for ourselves if we want the truth or a good story. How the reader answers that question will skew how one views this novel.
Magic and marvels and bodies pile up as Tracker and his friend, the shapeshifting Leopard, search for a kidnapped child. A deeply imagined, passionate and beautifully written journey into an uncanny mythological world.
I couldn’t help diving in, amid outlandish creatures, submerged in and bombarded by poor grammars and misspellings, combing through, I was able to sail out in rhyme, wounded.
I’d hoped Mossi were a reincarnated Leopard, Nyka were a misunderstood soul... but Tracker’s monologue is, elusive, a better narrative.
Having used to an equally magical fantasy ”Journey to the West” (for its Zen sublimity), I felt noxious to take in all the grotesque and the coarse, except for “white science” which design I applaud, regardless of its depravity.
I also wish 10+9 doors and the paths could be more elaborately trekked or broken into.
It was a hell of adventure, in time of my first trip to Africa, more thrilling and fascinating than many physical adventures I’ve gone through.
page one talks about the "goats they f*** for sport." page two mentions the
young girl too small for your big . . ."
This site has too short of a character maximum for me to write my entire review here! :)
So, the major highlights to know:
1) This is NOT Young Adult. It is gory, horrific, brutal and (at times) very disturbing.
2) It is brilliantly written. James made me feel, smell and experience everything our characters did , saw and smell (even when I didn't want to).
3) The darkness of this book spoke to me on a very intimate level.
4) If you can get past Chapter 8 then you will be fine. That is the pinnacle of the gore and ickiness.
5) So many characters, maps, new monsters and creatures from African folklore; and so much more! If you want epic, elaborate fantasy this is it.
6) It is very long and sometimes drawn out. Like any typical epic fantasy there are dragging points and moments where you may feel lost. It all comes together at the end in a beautiful way but there are some slog sections.
7) I usually read a book in about 3-4 days (max) when it's 600+ pages like this one. This book took me 23 days. I needed time to digest, understand and take breathers.
8) I LOVED this book. It is immediately moved to my favourites shelf.
9) Our narrator "Tracker" is unreliable. As this series progresses it is said that the next book is the same events from someone else's perspective. So if you missed some things in book 1 I'm assuming book 2 will shed light. I think many things are intentionally ambiguous.
10) It's okay not to like this one. If you couldn't get through it I appreciate why. But please don't say that anyone who loved this book is an awful person. That is simple not true. Fiction is fiction. It's not like I'm condoning the actions in this book in real life. Instead I'm merely saying that I absolutely loved it for what it was; and part of that is that it is grim dark fantasy fiction.
This is a shortened version of my review.
My full review is available on Goodreads.
This was not an easy read due to the sometimes very graphic language and content - although if you were able to watch Game of Thrones you should be fine. The storytelling is also non-linear so following what is going on was not always easy, especially in the first chapters. I'm glad I read it and appreciated it more and more as I went along with the search for the missing boy but I can't say I'm feverishly awaiting the next volume in this trilogy.
This book took me so long to finish. I never really got into the plot and I think that's why it took so long. I normally don't mind books with vulgar language, but this one is over the top imo. Not sure I'll pick this series back up when he has another book done. I found the plot slow to develop and too many subplots going on to keep my interest.
Learned a valuable lesson with this book. Just because people tell me I 'should' read a book, doesn't mean I really should. I couldn't even get through 40 pages of this one. It simply did not make sense. I really cannot see the appeal.
The first book I have picked up in a long time that I simply could not finish. The combination of extremely brutal violence and sex with just about anything(children, the elderly, animals)made the story simply revolting in my eyes. If you find your teenage child, or younger, reading this book, you should sit down and have a very long talk with them. Lesson learned: Just because a book is on the NYT best seller list.........
This book is in many ways a ground breaking work of literary fantasy. I'm sure I've never read anything like it. It is dense and complex and exotic. And so dark. It took me a long time to read because I felt I needed to read it slowly and thoroughly. I think it is a very finely written, imaginative piece of work. I can't say I loved it because that word seems too soft for this book. So I'll say that I greatly admired it - was even in awe of it at some sections, and I really enjoyed being along for the ride. I fully intend to read the next in the series. I love the way the author made you work a bit for the pleasure of the book. He demanded your attention. I always love that in a book. Be well warned - this book is not for a sensitive reader. There is plenty here to offend everyone.
I read about 75 pages and had a hard time getting into this one. I could tell it was beautifully written but I couldn't let go and get into the flow of this supposed epic, parabolic story. I hope this book finds its audience, I could tell it is definitely a wild ride. Also people keep calling it the African Game of Thrones....Roxane Gay said we should stop saying that and I agree. It's a horse of a completely different color.
A New & Noteworthy pick. Get in line early for this first book in a trilogy that's being called the "African game of thrones."
Jamaican-born Marlon James wrote one of my favorite books of recent years, the Booker Prize-winning "A Brief History of Seven Killings," and I was ready to read anything he wrote. I certainly didn't expect that he'd write a fantasy novel, which is part of a projected trilogy, that will no doubt be billed as the African "Game of Thrones." I liked it, it just wan't what I expected from him.