Monday 23 November, 2020

Marlon James' novel among TIME's '100 best fantasy books of all time'

Marlon James

Marlon James

Jamaican author Marlon James' fantasy epic "Black Leopard, Red Wolf" is among TIME magazine's '100 best fantasy books of all time'. 

The book is a fantastical vision of ancient Africa that has been likened to "Game of Thrones" and is the first of a planned "Dark Star" trilogy by James. 

"Black Leopard, Red Wolf" traces the story of what happens when a mercenary, called Tracker, is hired to find a missing child who disappeared three years earlier.

According to Time magazine, "In a year defined by grim reality, we look to artists to help us understand—and escape. TIME celebrates the best, most captivating and essential fantasy books of all time, dating back to the 9th century."

To develop its list, the magazine said it began in 2019 by recruiting a panel of leading fantasy authors, comprising of James himself.

The other authors were Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin and Sabaa Tahi. 

They all worked together with TIME staff members in nominating the top books of the genre. However, the panelists of authors did not nominate their own works. 

"The group then rated 250 nominees on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. Finally, TIME editors considered each finalist based on key factors, including originality, ambition, artistry, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature more broadly," the magazine stated.

James, who won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his book 'A Brief History of Seven Killings', was hailed by TIME magazine editor, Elijah Wolfson, for creating a novel that created a new spin on the fantasy genre that he said "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," Wolfson wrote.

"James 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.

"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," Wolfson shared.

Described as "gripping" and "action-packed", the book has received several awards, including the winner of the LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize, and finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.

It has also been named a New York Times Best Seller, and a Best Book of 2019 by The Wall Street Journal, TIME, NPR, GQ, Vogue, and The Washington Post.

A graduate of the Wolmer's Boys' School in Kingston, James was also named as one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2019

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