Black Leopard, Red Wolf

20 CDs. Books on Tape. Feb. 2019.4 hrs. ISBN 9780525526841. $60. digital download. FANTASY
Borrowing from ancient lore and building upon common, human fears, this is a lush, imaginative fantasy set in an Africa inhabited by witches, monsters, were-animals, shape-changers, and other strange magic, such as a wolf Tracker whose nose leads him to others whom he seeks. He and a continuously changing group of occasional friends and former enemies search for a missing boy and find themselves in the middle of a political power struggle. No answers are clear, paths are murky, and motivations are hidden. Though fast-paced in adventure and dialog, the tale itself unfolds slowly as the listener is led through a labyrinth of stories within stories within stories. Reader Dion Graham's rich performance brings to life the multilayered characters, expertly conveying the wit and compassion as well as the anger and cynicism expressed by the large cast. Occasionally some of his characters sound enough alike that listeners may become lost in determining who is speaking. Frequent scenes of explicit physical and sexual violence reinforce recurring themes of brutality, misogyny, and power but may also repulse some listeners.
VERDICT This challenging book rewards listeners willing to commit time and mental energy to contemplating the meaning of truth, the consequences of decisions, and the depths of pain. Unfortunately, the many maps and lists of characters that appear in the print and ebooks are not available here. ["An unglorified if gloriously delivered story that feels eminently real despite the hobgoblins": LJ 2/19 starred review of the Riverhead hc.]
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