The Bird King

The Bird King

Book - 2019
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An epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. The story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Hassan has a secret-- he can draw maps of places he's never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan's surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan's gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls? As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.
Publisher: New York : Grove Press, 2019
Edition: First edition, first Grove Atlantic hardcover edition
ISBN: 9780802129031
080212903X
Characteristics: 403 pages ; 22 cm

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El_vy
Oct 18, 2019

Fatima is concubine to the sultan of Granada, a kingdom in long decline that has now been conquered for good by the Spanish, Ferdinand and Isabella. Born and raised in the palace, Fatima’s best friend and the only person she loves is Hassan, the mapmaker, who has the ability to draw maps to anywhere and see all the unseen paths. Luz, the Inquisitor sent by the Spanish, sees Hassan as evil. The story is of FAtima’s and Hassan’s escape from the INquisition, and their decision to go find the Bird King, based on an unfinished poem that they had long created many endings for. Along the way, they are helped by Vikram, the Jinn who occupies the palace and companion to Lady Aisha, the sultan’s mom. Vikram at times takes the form of a dog and dog man. THey also meet up with the monk Gwennec, who helps them across the ocean to the island of the Bird King.

SCL_Justin Sep 16, 2019

Starting off in the last remnants of the Iberian sultanate, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, a spoiled concubine and her cartographer friend in the palace. Hassan's maps bend the rules of reality and when the Inquisition learns of his talent he becomes part of the price for making peace, which is unacceptable to Fatima. The story follows them as they try to escape the powers of empire with a little magickal help along the way.

Most of the book is a good "plucky heroes try to escape an empire" kind of tale, but in my opinion, it's the last quarter of the book that really makes it stand out. It reminds me more of something like Un Lun Dun (by China Mieville) or even the ending to Lev Grossman's The Magicians than the basic page-turner it had been until then.

Fatima is a great viewpoint character and her complicated relationship with Hassan (and the other characters they meet along the way) is knotty enough to be satisfying. I quite liked this.

d
DorisWaggoner
Sep 14, 2019

I've never read a historical fantasy before. This one takes place in 1491, the year Ferdinand and Isabel take over the last Muslim territory in the Iberian Peninsula. Fatima, 16, is the favorite concubine (part of the fantasy) to the elderly sultan of the Alhambra. For several years, they've been under siege by the Spanish forces. The only one who's getting enough to eat is Fatima, because, well, she's the sultan's favorite concubine. Her best friend is Hassan, the royal mapmaker, who has a secret. I'm not giving much away about his secret, because it's mentioned on pg. 1. He can make maps of places he's never been, or seen, and thus change reality. He doesn't talk about it much, which is a good thing when the Spanish invade the castle, and somehow make their way to Hassan's workroom. Suddenly there's a trapdoor in the floor, through which Fatima and Hassan escape to a dusty tunnel and out toward the coast. Hassan has a map of the Bird King's island, and that's where they're headed. Unfortunately for them, the Inquisitor Luz has seen the map too, and follows them. What comes before the escape is a bit slow. What follows is high adventure, fast paced, full of fantasy and wonders. And pain and sorrows. Terrible decisions must be made, and are. This is a lovely book. Apparently it's not at all like her first novel, "Alf the Unseen," nor any of her graphic novels. But she's a powerful writer, and I highly recommend this one.

k
kennethbhill
Sep 07, 2019

I discovered another literary genre - Historical Fantasy. This was a fun read, but I feel the ending was somewhat flat.

m
mcdoff
Aug 08, 2019

Bo got from library-looked good.

l
laphampeak
May 17, 2019

Colorful and full of adventure! It's a bit of a cat and mouse escapade via a fantasy medium. There seems to be more adventure and less plot yet the ride was immensely enjoyable.

RomanceAddict Apr 27, 2019

"The Bird King" is a fantasy that incorporates aspects of Islamic culture and belief, but is quite different from her previous novel, "Alif the Unseen". The story is original, highly imaginative, and the plot flows along, at first as slowly as Fatima's endless, languid days in the harem, and then as quickly as her flight and search for the land of the Bird King. Wilson's writing style is engaging and brilliantly detailed. If you're looking to branch out from Wilson's comics (Ms. Marvel, Air, Cairo), this fantasy is a good place to start.

DCLadults Apr 24, 2019

A New & Noteworthy pick. Hassan has a secret. He can draw maps of places he's never seen and bend the shape of reality. Now that’s a good trick!

AshleyF2008 Apr 16, 2019

G. Willow Wilson has a lovely writing style. She doesn't waste words, even when describing the setting. The relationship between Hassan and Fatima is relatable and unique and complicated. My only slight complaint is that the plot moved a little slowly. But I enjoyed the journey.

noramw Mar 28, 2019

Lush and wonderful language, characters, and worldbuilding make this an enjoyable read for fans of historical fantasy. The relationship between concubine Fatima and mapmaker Hassan is multifaceted and compelling. A good choice for readers who liked Uprooted and City of Brass.

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