The fantasy genre has long been saturated with the myths of Europe. Marlon James’ fourth novel offers a stunning corrective, drawing instead on African mythology and history for its tropes, character types and narrative renderings. James, who won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings, identifies as a gay man, and—in another welcome palliative to an often-heteronormative genre—he fills Black Leopard, Red Wolf with characters who span the full spectra of gender and sexual identities and who never once feel anything close to stereotypes. The novel is breathtakingly ambitious. It’s meant to be the first in a trilogy that will retell the same story of a missing boy and the fantastical crew sent to retrieve him from three different perspectives. James crafts a sprawling story of heroism, evil, betrayal and redemption with electric language, all while matching up with the classics of the genre when it comes to grand world-building and intricately designed magical elements that feel entirely of its universe. —Elijah Wolfson

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