Crown Books for Young Readers: Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Marlon James's fourth novel channels his interests in history and the supernatural into a full-blown fantasy epic. Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the exciting first installment in the Dark Star trilogy, more than earned its spot as a National Book Award finalist. It takes place in an ancient Africa where gods and mythical creatures walk among humans. The protagonist, appropriately named Tracker, earns a living tracking down lost people with his extraordinary sense of smell. Tracker is hired into a motley band assembled to find a missing boy, but the quest is not as simple as it seems, taking Tracker on a series of journeys across James's inventive, magnificently realized world.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is preoccupied with storytelling. The entire novel essentially unfolds as a story being told by Tracker to a mysterious Inquisitor, but it also contains tales within tales in which Tracker's companions share their own histories. The experience of reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf might be best compared with listening to stories around a fire in the late, dreamlike part of the night. James's book is something fresh and new and completely unforgettable. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine