I don’t know what to say about this latest book by Marlon James.
I loved A Brief History of Seven Killings, so I was really looking forward to this one. Plus I had heard really good things about it, but I just…
After spending more than 20 hours listening to the audiobook, I have to admit that I just didn’t like it. I seriously considered bailing on it a few hours in, but I had spent so much time looking forward to it, and my expectations had been set so high, that I was just too stubborn to give up on it (sometimes I’m too stubborn for my own good).
I’m not even sure why I didn’t like this book. At first, I was tempted to say it’s because it’s so violent, but ABHoSK was also super violent, and I loved that book.
Then I thought maybe it was because I didn’t like the main character, but none of the characters in ABHoSK were particularly likable either, so what was my problem with this book?
After thinking about it for a while, I think it comes down to the fact that the beginning jumps around a lot and I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and where we were and why I was supposed to care. James did bring it all together towards the end of the book, but by that time I had spent so much time being confused that James was unable to win back my goodwill.
I also spent a fair amount of time trying to decide if this book was sexist. The main character a man named “Tracker”, says a lot of super sexist things. For example, every time he cries, he talks about it as “the woman in him”, or he would deny that he had cried at all because he is “a man”, with the implication being that only women cry.
On the other hand, there are several female characters throughout the book who are strong and badass and could not care less about what men think about what they are doing. Sometimes there’s a fine line between a sexist character and a sexist author and I ultimately determined that it was the character, and not the author, who was sexist. Moreover, James knew exactly what he was doing.
Towards the end of the book, another male character talks to Tracker about his issues with women and it is very clear that it is Tracker’s issue. The book doesn’t blame women, or his mom, or society for Tracker’s baggage. It makes it very clear that Tracker has an issue that he has to deal with, and he does. I’m not saying he’s a completely different character by the end of the book, but he has started to work on some of those issues.
I won’t talk about the entire plot because it’s too convoluted and involves too many parts. I’ll just say that “Tracker” gets his name from his job description. He has a very strong sense of smell, which he uses to find people who have been lost and/or stolen. Multiple characters throughout the book say, “It is said you have a nose”, referring to his remarkable sense of smell and ability to find people.
One day he is hired to find a boy who went missing three years ago. He was a baby at the time, but now would be a toddler. Tracker doubts the kid is still alive, or if he is, that he wants to be found, since he’s probably become more attached to his captors than his parents.
But Tracker’s curiosity gets the best of him, so he starts investigating. As it turns out, the man who was killed during the kidnapping was not the boy’s father, but someone who had written treatises against the king and the line of succession. Generations ago, the heir to the throne was not the king’s son, but the king’s oldest sister’s oldest son.
But the current king’s great grandfather or whatever killed his oldest sister, forced his oldest daughter into their version of a convent, and decreed that all princesses should devote their loves to the gods.
But the current king’s oldest sister had no interest in the “monastic” life, and she managed to convince her father that she should marry and have children.
After their father died, the current king had his oldest sister’s husband and children slaughtered, and would have killed her if he hadn’t been afraid of angering the gods by spilling divine blood. Instead he has her imprisoned, but she schemes and works with her supporters to marry a prince and have a son by him and that is the child Tracker has been hired to find.
I won’t say any more than that, except that the ending is probably not what you would expect.
What did you read/listen to this week? Anything you had really been looking forward to that failed to live up to expectations?