Tracker is a hunter, known in the thirteen kingdoms as one who has a nose – and he always works alone. But he breaks this rule when he joins a band seeking a lost child. His companions are strange and dangerous, from a giant to a witch to a shape-shifting Leopard, and each hides their own secret.
As they follow the boy’s scent, from perfumed citadels to infested rivers to enchanted darklands, set upon by murderous foes, Tracker wonders: who is this mysterious boy? Why don’t people want him found? And, crucially, who is telling the truth and who is lying?
Firstly, this book is probably the longest book I’ve read this year.
Secondly, for the first time in my life, I’m still very undecided on whether I liked it or not.
It’s been depicted as an ‘African Game of Thrones’, which I will state is largely inaccurate. Although, as a fantasy novel set in Africa with very graphic scenes described, I can understand where this statement has come from.
When you’ve read a lot of books sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. This book is so far left field compared to what I would normally read. Nevertheless, I was determined to go into it with an open mind.
If I had to describe this book, I would say it gave me more ‘Lord of the Rings’ vibes than anything else. Although, I’ve only watched the films so I’m not entirely sure how it would compare to the books. There are loads of very uncomfortable and graphic scenes. He doesn’t hold back on them so if you are interested in reading this book, please be aware there are loads of triggering issues.
Marlon James is a very talented writer. His ability to describe certain events in detail is truly a gift. At times, it did feel a bit unwarranted and unnecessary but that might just be my own preference. I think when it comes to the fantasy genre, there’s a tendency to over describe the events just so the reader can imagine it exactly as the author intends for it to be. However, there’s a fine line and for me, Marlon James tiptoes on it throughout this book. There were parts where I could speed through and I was eager to read more. And there were times, where it felt almost too much. I had to take breaks before I could understand exactly what was on the page.
The protagonist, Tracker, was very well written. I found myself liking his flawed personality. A very impulsive character that acts on instincts rather than reason. He was very well-developed and continued to be throughout the novel. Tracker was probably one of the main reasons I kept reading. I wanted to know his story and how he became the way he was.
All of his characters were well written to be honest. They were all very well-rounded with their own flaws. Some flat out irritated me and some I genuinely liked. I wouldn’t say I loved any of the characters, which I saw as a good thing.
Whilst Marlon James does write some very triggering scenes, he does well in articulating issues of today and history into his novel. He drew on themes of sexism and there were even parallels to slavery. Personally, I felt he was trying to incorporate some elements of The Transatlantic Slave Trade but I think that might just be me. James was great at incorporating representation into this novel. Gender and sexuality was fluid for every character.
I think the hardest thing for me were the triggering scenes. They were distinctly uncomfortable and happened in practically every chapter. There wasn’t a moment to take a break from it unless I stopped reading. Now, I’m not sure why Marlon James decided they were essential for this novel because there were times I didn’t feel like they were needed. I guess it added to the fantasy horror theme of the novel but the characters and storyline would have been enough for me.
The ending was emotional but slightly anti-climactic. It was irritating to see how the main reason for the plot was essentially pointless. It felt like all the gore, horror and triggering scenes had amounted to nothing. However, in terms of Tracker’s own story line, I think it was worth finishing the novel. I don’t regret it and I think that’s why I’m undecided about whether I liked it.
I understand that there’s going to be a sequel. At first, I thought I would try the sequel until I found out that it would be a re-telling of the story from another character’s point-of-view.
Now I’m not too sure because Tracker saved it for me. Nevertheless, I’ll have to see after it comes out and decide after I’ve read a couple reviews on it.
If you don’t mind the triggering, unfiltered graphic scenes from Game of Thrones and loved the seemingly never-ending journey in the ‘Lord of the Rings’, then this novel might just be for you.