Marlon James on the power of witches and women

A book cover and a photo of a man side by side
Marlon James is an award-winning author, who just released the much-anticipated second novel in his "Dark Sky" trilogy.
Book cover courtesy Penguin Random House. Photo by Mark Seliger.

Marlon James once described his 2019 novel “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” as an African “Game of Thrones” — grimdark fantasy fiction that was widely praised. This week, he released the second installment in his “Dark Sky” trilogy, “Moon Witch, Spider King,” and if anything, it’s getting even more acclaim.

Like its predecessor, it’s set in a harsh imaginary region littered with competing city-states. There are monsters, witches, sorcerers, scheming leaders whose lives intertwine and twist into tightly wound stories that are often impossible to parse. There’s explicit action, ruthlessness, violence and sex. This time, the protagonist is Sogolon, the Moon Witch, with many lives and a brutal backstory who wields her power as a weapon of revenge.

James tells host Kerri Miller that the books of his trilogy do not have to be read in order, since each tell similar stories, only from different and competing viewpoints. “Who’s telling the truth?” he says. “Does it matter?”

In a warm and fascinating conversation, James and Miller talk about how witches are often just women with power, how James learned to write women realistically and what the finale of his trilogy will, or won’t, do.

Guest:

  • Marlon James is an award-winning author. His latest novel is “Moon Witch, Spider King.”

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