When Black Leopard, Red Wolf came out it was widely praised and was selected as book of the month in Mysterious Galaxy speculative fiction book club. I was excited by the description of a fantasy told from a wholly African inspiration. This was something that would broaden my perspective of what is fantasy. The book languished on the shelf and then CBR bingo came out and it was the perfect book for the Red square.
From the beginning, the story technique rubbed me the wrong way. I am not a fan of a rambling, non linear story, especially when one sentence to the next aren’t always connected. It was a disjointed beginning that set the book off poorly, for me. Things went quickly off the rails when on the second page there is talk of unwilling circumcision and raping a young girl to specifically tear her open. In addition, descriptions of objects being described as sexual body parts further put me off the book. It seemed like a near constant parade of sex, bodily fluids, violence, and disparaging remarks about boys who are actually girls and vice versa, that people both man and woman are lesser. At page 36, I decided that I was done, this is not a book for me, and for once I would give up and write a review saying why I quit. Here are a selection of quotes that led to my increasing discomfort. Perhaps a shift happens in the book and these sorts of things stop being so constant but my TBR is too long and I’d like to finish a third bingo this month, so I threw in the towel. If you find these passages disconcerting, I would strongly recommend you not read the book.
A boy you circumcised, a young girl too small for your big…Look how that thrills you.
That light, you see it and you want it – not light from the sun, or from the thunder god in the night sky, but light with no blemish, light in a boy who has no knowledge of women, a girl you bought for marriage, not because you need a wife, for you have two hundred cows, but a wife you can tear open because you search for it in holes, black holes, wet holes, undergrown holes for the light that vampires look for, and you will have it, you will dress it up in ceremony, circumcision for the boy, consummation for the girl, and when they shed blood, and spit and sperm and piss you leave it all on your skin, to go to the iroko tree and use any hold you find.
The walls were shaped like candlewax melting on candlewax. In the dimness, parts of it looked like a screaming face, or elephant legs, or a young girl’s slit.
The first we passed were mounds of dry grass with a peak like a nipple.
Beside that a wall, long and dark, spotted with nipples made of clay.
He saw me looking and said the circles in the center were the rippling pools of water, meaning renewal each wet season, or whenever he dips into the wet of his new wife’s wiwi.
Boy with red tips, the female cut off from the male”….. My uncle waved him closer. He laughed, saying the boy knows he has the mark of the end of youth, and wants the village to know. The boy flinched when my uncle grabbed his balls and cock as if to weigh them. Look, he said. The paint almost hid that skin was gone, cut away, leaving the bold blossom tip. This boy will be a man, now that the fetish priest has cut the woman away.
And the girl must have the man deep inside her cut out of her beha for her to be a woman.
A girl whose inner boy in the fold of her flesh was not cut out is blessed twice by the god of pleasure and plenty…..That man could never accept that the gods would gift the weaker woman with such riches, so before every girl becomes a woman, man sets up to steal it, cut it away and throw it in the bush.
Red – Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Orange – The Priory of the Orange Tree
Yellow – King of Scars
Green – The Secret Garden
Purple – The Queen of Sorrow