James’ tale digs its hooks in and never lets go, rather like the claws of the flesh-eating Zogbanu trolls, or the teeth of a vicious ghommid. Yet for all the fantasy and action, James never loses sight of the human story as his hero ... Gender-bending romance, fantastical adventure, and an Afrocentric setting make for an inventive and engaging read.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf is set in a fantasy version of Africa that is, as James described it, 'a little bit Dark Ages in Europe…sort of after the fall of Rome, but before the rise of Florence.' In the real world, while Europe was struggling to survive, the African continent was awash with expansive empires and wealthy kingdoms. For epic fantasy to focus almost exclusively on Western Europe and the British Isles means ignoring a treasure trove of storytelling opportunities—opportunities James eagerly takes on ... Fantasy has exploded with diversity in recent years, especially in Young Adult fiction. With epic fantasy, the tide is turning more slowly, but QPOC authors are turning the stodgy old subgenre inside out. If Charles R. Saunders’ Imaro series opened the door to new ways of telling epic fantasy, and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy leapt over the threshold, then Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf just ripped the whole damn door off its hinges.