Image of the cover for Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

Korey B’s Review:

Moon Witch, Spider King

Categories: Fantasy | Femme | Queer | Reviews


Marlon James’ Moon Witch, Spider King is an unexpected, richly drawn, thoroughly engrossing anti-sequel to the Dark Star trilogy’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Moon Witch, Spider King tells the story of Sogolon the Moon Witch, who appeared as the tracker’s foil in Black Leopard, Red Wolf. In an unexpected move, James retells the story of the missing boy who was the key to saving the Northern Kingdoms from Sogolon’s perspective. But more than that, we’re given Sogolon’s entire story, from her initial upbringing trapped inside a termite mound by her father and brothers to her perilous journey to becoming the infamous Moon Witch.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf featured a lush, richly imagined, and lavishly described fantasy world based on various African mythologies. Moon Witch, Spider King took James’ imagined world several steps further, describing it from a woman’s perspective–a woman subject to all the abuse and misogyny of the first book. While this softens the blow a bit, it’s still hard to read about. As in the first book, James’ prose is choppy and rhythmic, making for sometimes challenging but always entertaining reading.

Sogolon was one of my favorite characters from Black Leopard, Red Wolf, so it was exciting to read her story. As with many of her sisters, the witch moniker was forced upon her despite her protests. As the cook told her, “the only difference between who is a witch and who is not is one man’s mouth.” It’s a label often used throughout history to demean and punish women who acted against the patriarchy. Intelligent women. Powerful women. Women who don’t obey. And Sogolon is all of those things. Fortunately for her, Sogolon’s power is real, if sometimes out of her control. If you’re like me and have always wanted to know more about Sogolon and her many trials over her long life, this book is for you.

This book contains mentions of physical and mental abuse, loss of family members, and descriptions of war, violence, rape, and death.