Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy) - book cover
  • Publisher : Riverhead Books
  • Published : 15 Feb 2022
  • Pages : 656
  • ISBN-10 : 0735220204
  • ISBN-13 : 9780735220201
  • Language : English

Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy)

"Masterfully flips the first installment on its head... James makes the mythic tantalizingly real.'" -Esquire
"Even more brilliant than the first." -Buzzfeed
From Marlon James, author of the bestselling National Book Award finalist Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the second book in the Dark Star trilogy.

In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him. It's also the story of a century-long feud-seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch-that Sogolon had with the Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi's power is considerable-and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own.

Both a brilliant narrative device-seeing the story told in Black Leopard, Red Wolf from the perspective of an adversary and a woman-as well as a fascinating battle between different versions of empire, Moon Witch, Spider King delves into Sogolon's world as she fights to tell her own story. Part adventure tale, part chronicle of an indomitable woman who bows to no man, it is a fascinating novel that explores power, personality, and the places where they overlap.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Moon Witch, Spider King:

"James's imagination is vast and fiery, and his numerous fight scenes are heart-pumping and vivid. But what has stayed with me are his more subtle observations on the human condition. . . .The Moon Witch lit my path and showed me how a woman might navigate this dangerous, remarkable world. . . .When I finished the last page of Moon Witch, Spider King, I found my copy of Black Leopard, Red Wolf and started at the beginning." -The New York Times Book Review

"James is such a ferociously powerful and fast-paced storyteller that one rarely has time to worry about the grander scheme of the plot. . . .Galvanized by a vernacular writing style modeled on the oral tradition of African griots, the scenes are ribald, declamatory and quick to confrontation. Events are so crazed and swirling they become almost hallucinatory. . . .It is this trilogy's prodigious passions, and not any obvious narrative purpose, that make it so gripping." -The Wall Street Journal

"Retelling the same story from a different perspective is not a gimmick here; it is a successful literary device that leads to a gripping narrative. . . .This is work that both meets the immersive worldbuilding standard in books by Tolkien and Martin and brings to the genre a voice unlike anything seen before. . . .If James managed to capture the imagination of readers with Black Leopard, Red Wolf, this second book, which is darker, longer, and better, does even more: It sets readers up for what will undoubtedly be a superb finale." -The Boston Globe

"More than 1,200 pages into James' trilogy, one thing is clear: Moon Witch, Spider King is even better than Black Leopard, Red Wolf. . . .Not only could you read Moon Witch, Spider King first without missing a beat; it might even be a better introduction to James' world. . . .Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Moon Witch, Spider King are wildly inventive, genre-defining works of fiction on the level of The Lord Of The Rings and the Broken Earth trilogy that deserve to be studied, dissected, and argued over." -AV Club

"[A] medieval feast ...

Short Excerpt Teaser


One night I was in the dream jungle. It was not a dream, but a memory that jump up in my sleep to usurp it. And in the dream memory is a girl. See the girl. The girl who live in the old termite hill. Her brothers three, who live in a big hut, say that the hill look like the rotting heart of a giant turn upside down, but she don't know what any of that mean. The girl, she is pressing her lips tight in the hill's hollow belly, the walls a red mud and rough to the touch. No window unless you call a hole a window and, if so, then many windows, popping all over and making light cut across her body up, down, and crossway, making heat sneak in and stay, and making wind snake around the hollow. Termites long ago leave it, this hill. A place nobody would keep a dog, but look how this is where they keep her.

Two legs getting longer but still two sticks, head getting bigger but chest still as flat as earth, she may be right at the age before her body set loose, but nobody bother to count her years. Yet they mark it every summer, mark it with rage and grief. They, her brothers. That is how they mark her birth, oh. At that time of year they feel malcontent come as a cloud upon them, for which she is to blame. So, she is pressing her lips together because that is a firm thing, her lips as tight as the knuckles she squeezing. Resolve set in her face to match her mind. There. Decided. She is going to flee, crawl out of this hole and run and never stop running. And if toe fall off, she will run on heel, and if heel fall off, she will run on knee, and if knee fall off, she will crawl. Like a baby going back to her mother, maybe. Her dead mother who don't live long enough to name her.

With the small light coming and going through the entry holes, she can count days. With the smell of cow shit, she can tell that one brother is tilling the ground to plant new crops, which can only mean that it is either Arb or Gidada, the ninth or tenth day of the Camsa moon. With one more look around, she see the large leaf on which they dump a slop of porridge last evening, one of only two times every quartermoon that they feed her. When they remember. Most of the time they just let her starve, and if they finally remember, late in the night, they say it's too late anyway, let some spirit feed her in dreams.

See the girl. Watch the girl as she hear. It is through her brothers yelling about when to plant millet, and when to rest the ground, that she learn season from season. Days of rain and days of dry tell her the rest. Otherwise, they just drag her out of the termite hill by rope bound to the shackle they keep around her neck, tie her to a branch and drag her through the field, yelling at her to plow the cow shit, goat shit, pig shit, and deer shit with her hands. Dig into the dirt with your hands and mix the shit deep so that your own food, which you don't deserve, can grow. The girl is born with penance on her back. And to her three brothers she will never pay it in full.

Watch the boys. Her brothers, the older two laughing at the youngest one screaming. Boys like they were born, wearing nothing but yellow, red, and blue straw pads on their elbows and shins, and tiny straw shields over their knuckles. The older two both wear helmets that look like straw cages over their heads. Helmets in yellow and green. The girl crawl out of her oven to watch them. Her oldest brother spin a stick as tall as a house. He swirl and twirl and jump like he is dancing. But then he rolls, jumps up, and swing the stick straight for middle brother's neck. Middle brother scream.


"We from the same mother," oldest brother say, and laugh. He turn away for a blink but still he is too slow. A stick strike fire on his left shoulder. He swing around, laughing even though the hit draw blood. Now he going do it. He grab his stick with two hands like an ax and run after his brother, raining down chop after chop. Middle brother strike two blows but oldest is too fast. Swing and swing and swing and chop and chop and chop. Slash to the chest, slash to the left arm, slash to the bottom lip, bursting it.

"Is only play, brother," middle brother say, and spit blood.

Youngest brother try to tighten the big helmet to his little head, but fail. "I can beat the two of you," he say.

"Look at this little shit. You know why we go to donga, boy?" ask oldest brother.

"I not a fool. You go to win the stick fight. To kill the fool who challenge you."

Both brother look at the youngest like a stranger just appear in their midst.

"You too young, brother."