June 13, 2018 at 11:00 AM EDT

Here at EW, we’ve been eagerly anticipating Marlon James’ epic new fantasy series Dark Star, which he describes as an “African Game of Thrones.” At long last, we have some news to report: The first book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf has a release date, as well as a tantalizing story line.

Here’s the official synopsis: “Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: ‘He has a nose,’ people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent — from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers — he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?”

Jeffrey Skemp; Riverhead Books

James is drawing from African history and mythology for this ambitious effort, and considering his past achievements — including the brilliant, Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings — there’s reason to hype this title as one of the biggest of 2019.

“I really believe you should write the books you want to read,” James tells EW of Black Leopard, Red Wolf. “And the fantasy nerd in me would have given an eye tooth to geek out on a sword and sorcery book with people like me in it. But to write this book I had to unlearn everything — about how language works, character works, story works, even how truth works. The trade-off is that I also ended up with Werehyenas, children made of air and dust, and vampires who have no problem hunting you in broad daylight.”

Black Leopard, Red Wolf will publish on Feb. 5, 2019. We’ve still got a few months to go, but pre-orders can now be made here.

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