Marlon James is writing a bad-ass African fantasy series

Marlon James

Marlon James Jeffrey Skemp

Marlon James knows how to build worlds. 

The Man Booker-winning author demonstrated this in A Brief History of Seven Killings, a sprawling and complex work of fiction that pays tribute to 1970s Jamaica with a bit of history, an assassination attempt on Bob Marley, and a dozen or so characters intertwined through 700 pages.

While the Macalester professor has admitted to bouts of writer's block and procrastination, he's obviously been up to something, as Riverhead Books announced this week that his next project will be a young-adult series, dubbed the Dark Star Trilogy, filled with blood, gore, and drama. James says that the story is inspired by epics like Lord of the Rings and Dragonslayer, as well as African history and mythologies. 

Riverhead's release describes the plot:

"Three characters — the Tracker, the Moon Witch, and the Boy — are locked in a dungeon in the castle of a dying king, awaiting torture and trial for the death of a child. They were three of eight mercenaries who had been hired to find the child; the search, expected to take two months, took nine years. In the end, five of the eight mercenaries, as well as the child, were dead.What happened? Where did their stories begin? And how did each story end? These are the questions Marlon James poses in the Dark Star Trilogy, three novels set amid African legend and his own fertile imagination – an African Game of Thrones. From royal intrigue to thrilling and dangerous voyages, and complete with pirates, queens, witches, shape-shifters and monsters, these novels are part fantasy, part myth and part detective story."

According to an interview James recently gave with EW, he began researching and writing in 2014, around the time that Seven Killings press was starting up. Riverhead hopes to publish the first novel in fall of 2018. 

"[The setting] is still a made-up place. It’s more Middle Earth than say, Mogadishu," James explained to EW. "It’s all these imagined spaces, and all these imagined worlds, but still playing on a lot of African culture. But also, sort of recapturing some of the glories of empires — a lot of which the British just kind of burnt to the ground, which is why we don’t talk about them now." 

The first book is titled Black Leopard, Red Wolf. The second and third installments are Moon Witch, Night Devil and The Boy and the Dark Star.

Meanwhile, the world of Seven Killings is coming to the small screen. James is currently working with Eric Roth (The Insider, Ali, Forrest Gump) on an adaptation for HBO.