The Bird King

The Bird King

by G. Willow Wilson


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From Hugo Award winning author G. Willow Wilson comes an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian Peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition, when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802129031
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 03/12/2019
Pages: 440
Sales rank: 65,466
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

G. Willow Wilson is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Alif the Unseen, the memoir The Butterfly Mosque, and the graphic novels Cairo, Air, and Vixen. She co-created the celebrated comic book series Ms. Marvel starring Kamala Khan, winner of the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, and recently debuted as writer of the Wonder Woman comics. She currently lives in Seattle.

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The Bird King 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
JujubeeD More than 1 year ago
Freedom never comes without a cost. Surely freewill, courage and selflessness are required if ever happiness in life or true contentment of spirit can ever be realized? Is Faith, in the broadest of meanings, a guide or an illusion? “It means you can’t choose what makes you happy.” Its been a long time since I read a YA fantasy. In my youth, as these stories lend themselves, I too gobbled up every fairy tale, superhero comic, fable and mythology available in my local library to be swept away to another time and place to escape the ordinary...a portal to the extraordinary. As I aged the stories of real kings and queens, empires and nations fallen, their religions and ideologies took my reading attention. Real life battles for power of faith, coin, and land, no matter how horrific, are often told heroically. I'd come to realize, as was meant, Grimm's tales are just as horrific and doomed as RL. Often no hero saves the day nor is saved, and the villain can win no matter how hollow the victory. And therein truly are the lessons to be considered both from RL history and through the telling of fantastical stories...what path will one choose when faced with many roads and who do you choose to be, hero, villain or pawn? Is faith required or just freewill? Is your personal happiness more important than someone else's? What would you do if the one person you loved was doomed to a torturous death because of you? This fantastical tale, while very much Fatima's journey, is one rooted in historical facts yet told as a cautionary fable. I won't begin to offer the lessons to be learned within, if any, as it is very much the author's story and the reader's takeaway. I can understand some reviewer's criticism about the writing style of Fatima and her beloved friend Hassan's journey. I quite enjoyed the beautiful, almost lyrical prose describing in meticulous detail the color, shadows, tempurature, smells, memories and lack thereof, of daily life, relationships, emotions and creatures. At some points it was a bit over my head. Yet often it swept me away. I felt the writer purposely left the main characters flawed enough to almost not be loveable. She also gave them unique talents, yearnings, beliefs and sorrows. You get to decide who is villain or hero. Whom or what is worth saving. That's the essence of fantastical fables, right? All the possibilites for personal happiness and joy laid out far away from your touch, yet offered in a path of doom LOL In the end, I was satisfied I chose to finish. If only to have met the jinn ;) I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions, which are many and varied, are my own.
Laeljeanne 11 months ago
The last Iberian sultan’s mapmaker Hassan and Circassian concubine Fatima share a love for a poem by Al Attar in which they only have the opening lines. They continue the tale together, alternating and combining their own stories of the birds looking for their king. Hassan draws maps that reshape reality, coming under the scrutiny of the Spanish Inquisition when Fatima is too open with Luz, Queen Isabella’s advisor, emissary, and secret inquisitor. Fatima must find a way to save her best friend, embarking on a journey—guided by a jinn in animal form—where she finds her true self on the hidden island of the bird king. Friendship is tested, credibility is stretched to the limit, and redemption is found. Magical realism blends historical events and mythology well, thought there are a few too many cliffhangers in the latter half of the tale. It’s a beautiful story of desire to escape a horrid time in Spain’s past. I was given a digital copy of this fantastic story from Grove Press through NetGalley.
LibraryLadies More than 1 year ago
I read an excerpt of this on Bookish First and found myself immediately connecting to the beautiful writing that was popping on the page. I placed my request was thrilled when I received a copy. While it was a slower read, ultimately, than I had been expecting, that same strength in writing and the unexpected depth of thought given to the historical events, religious interactions, and cultures of the time period ultimately drew me in. Fatima and her friend Hassan have built a quiet life for themselves in the circumstances they have found themselves in: she a concubine to the sultan and he a mapmaker. But Hassan is much more than your ordinary mapmaker and possess the incredible gift of not only drawing up intricate maps of the places he’s never been, but also, through these maps, interrupting the weave of reality itself. But when Hassan suddenly falls under the eyes of those who would see his gift as more of a threat than a blessing, he and Fatima must go on the run, seeking out a mystical island as their one port of harbor for a safe life going forward. I haven’t read too many books set in this time period or within these combinations of cultures. The book is tackling a lot: the persecution under the Spanish Inquisition, the clashes between religious forces taking place in that time, plus a healthy dose of magic realism to differentiate it from a purely historical fiction work. But I think it is this last portion, the interweaving of the fantastical elements that really made this book sing for me. There are a lot of big ideas being tossed around throughout the story, but many of these are explored from a bit of an angle, with the author approaching them almost from the side, using fairytale-like elements to draw readers into a deceptively complicated, real-world issue. Metaphor and stylized writing are also used to great effect to, again, almost backwards-walk readers into topics that can get pretty dicey pretty quickly. Of course, I’m always going to love anything that reads like a fairytale, but I appreciate it all the more when an author is able to use this writing style to get at deeper topics that can often be challenging to get across. I also very much liked the two main characters in Fatima and Hassan. At first, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about Fatima, but as the story progressed, I found myself becoming more and more invested in their platonic friendship and love. It’s a rare read to find a story that focuses on this type of strong relationship, one that isn’t based on romantic love (Hassan is gay, another factor that leads to his persecution), but that still highlights the extent to which each party will go for the other. The fact that they aren’t romantically involved never feels like it detracts from what they would do for each other, and, instead, in some ways it feels that their bond is even stronger by being freed from that element. It’s a unique relationship to see explored so thoroughly in this type of book. I will say, however, that the story is pretty slow going. It takes quite a bit for them to even get started on their journey, and then once they do, it doesn’t speed up much. There’s a lot of travel, camping, small moments of action, and then more travel and camping. The writing was still captivating, which was enough to get me through these slower elements, but I can see how this could be off-putting to many readers, especially ones who may not be as interested in the greater themes being expl
alyssama121 More than 1 year ago
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* The Bird King is absolutely magical, stunning, and thrilling. For me, it was the kind of book that I really wasn’t sure about at first. It’s slow to start and build, and then when I was through the setup and into the actual plot, I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. It tackles tough issues while also being an elegantly written adventure with characters you aren’t likely to forget. What Wilson does is make this a book about everything; while it hits on issues that are important to me (feminism, for one), the story isn’t quite *about* those issues. Rather, the story is an adventurous, magical realism, fantasy type of story, but there are beautiful lines in here that made my heart sing when I read them. These are very small moments within the story itself, but they are what really made me fall in love with the characters and the world that Wilson creates within these pages, because it is a world that is fully realized and wholly complex. Fatima is the main character and is the very embodiment of what I think of when I think of strong, female characters. She’s naive in some ways, delicate in others, but so very strong and determined to succeed in her mission to save her friend and get him away from the people who want to harm him. I love how it’s her determination and love for her friend that helps her change and grow into the person she was always capable of being. Mostly, I love how myth and history weave together to bring this story into play. It made me want to learn so much more about the time period in which it’s set and the culture of the main characters’ worlds. I was thinking about the story for a long time after I finished and still can’t quite get it out of my mind. It’s easily one my favorite reads of 2018 and I would not be surprised if it’s a favorite release for this year. It’s just so smartly done, I can’t say enough good things about it.
Fátima Figueira More than 1 year ago
I loved the message across the book and the growth that Fatima, the main character went through but ultimately the mix of magic and historical fiction did not grab my attention as I wished it had.
Amy Smith Carman More than 1 year ago
Title: The Bird King Author: G. Willow Wilson Release Date: 3-22-19 Stars: 3.5 Series?: Stand along book Genre: Fantasy, Magic, YA, Historical fantasy People of Color?: Yes LGBTQ?: Yes Bechdel: Yes I received an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. G. Willow Wilson writes an epic and fantastical story set during the last reign of the Muslim sultan in the Iberian peninsula in 1491. Not only is the kingdom beseiged, but the Spanish Inquisition has no tolerance for any differences. The story is told through the eyes of Fatima, a concubine and slave to the Sultan. Her best friend is Hassan, the palace map-maker who also has the ability to manipulate reality based on his map alterations. Not only is his gift considered magic, but the Inquisition is also after him for his same-sex attraction. Fatima and Hassan flee the palace to save Hassan's life and make some odd friends along the way. The story has so many great threads and is so unique. However, for me, it unraveled a little in the end. The premise is os interesting and the point of view is unique, so I would still recommend it to others. Ages: Suitable for teenagers and up Recommended for: Fans of historical fiction, magic, fantasy and historical fantasy
Eshana Ranasinghe More than 1 year ago
There are many things I loved about the Bird King. From its beautiful writing to its setting to its scope to its magic. But there are things that hindered my ability to love it. The first part of the novel was spectacular but it gradually went down hill for me personally. A large part of this story involved the characters travelling (and I find travelling to places so boring to read about). This slowed down the story and made me wish the antagonist would catch them so something could actually happen. Speaking of the antagonist, they were terrible and frightening and their interactions with the protagonists were intense. But those were few and far between. I'm sure there is tons of subtext, deeper meanings, symbolism and allegory which I didn't understand. I think if you don't mind a slow plot, or the characters and like analyzing the symbolism in literature you will enjoy this more than I did. I couldn't get past the slowness of the middle of the book. I received an arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rachel Bennett More than 1 year ago
“It was less be confronted by something that was honest about its capacity for violence, than to dread the smiles and false assurances of something that believed in its own goodness even as it murdered and mutilated.” “The people who want to burn you alive will find a reason to do it, whether you pretend to agree with them or not.” “People would rather call them witches and burn them than acknowledge that miracles are bestowed upon the world with glorious, unfathomable generosity, because people are idiots.” What an amazing book from G. Willow Wilson! I adored this story and the beautiful characters and themes it explores. Themes of fear, identity, religion, friendship, reality, faith, and love permeate every page of this book. I initially became excited to read this book because of the setting; 1491 Spain, or the very end of the Reconquista, has fascinated me ever since I studied Spanish history in college. I will admit to growing up in a Christian culture that painted the Crusades as a holy, righteous war. Only after studying Spanish history did I come to realize that the Catholics were brutally denying religious freedom to an entire country full of diverse religions and people groups. Ironically, the group they sent out to explore the New World in 1492 (Columbus), set out to build a new society with the ideal of religious freedom. The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach, and this novel gave names and faces to a war that previously was anonymous to me. The main character, Fatima, is a slave in the court of the last Arab kingdom in Granada. When it becomes clear that her friend Hassan will not survive the assimilation to Catholicism due to his homosexuality and his "special talents" with mapmaking, they go on the run. The set-up I just described takes up about the first 100 pages and it is admittedly a little slow-moving. But once they set out on their journey, it is non-stop thrills, magic, and action until the stunning conclusion. This is a "road trip" story like no other, and anyone who loves a story where characters go on a harrowing journey, trying to beat impossible odds, must absolutely read this book! Some of the fantasy and magical elements went a little over my head - I struggled to picture some of the creatures she depicted. This may be because I am not an avid fantasy reader, but I still felt like some of the descriptions could have been a little more succinct and clear. I was also surprised by how "fantasy" this was - the set-up in the first 100 pages makes it seem like the story is going to be more magical realism, and then all of a sudden jinn and creatures start showing up. It definitely threw me a little. I also felt like the emotional struggles between characters got a little tiring after a while - Hassan & Fatima especially are constantly bickering, sometimes for really stupid reasons. They'll make up in the face of danger and then fight again the next page. I wish we could have seen more consistent friendship between the two of them, but this is a minor quibble.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People often seem to call the latest book a “lush fantasy”, but until now it just seemed cliche. The Bird King, however, is another thing altogether. Fatima is the last sultan’s concubine in a kingdom falling down to the Spanish Inquisition. When she discovers her friend Hassan is in danger for his ability to create paths and places by drawing maps, Fatima runs away with him and a clever jinn. The world-building in this book is incredible. It is realistic enough that for much of the tale you forget you’re actually reading fantasy — until a jinn comes along, of course. The characters are relatable and diverse; the book in general is refreshingly open-minded. There is no 'woe is me' attitude from Fatima while she's not free and I found her attitude towards being a concubine quite educational, as well as the entire palace's attitude towards Hassan's map-making and sexuality in this time of history. The only reason I gave it four instead of five stars is because I would have preferred more action - so much space was taken up with character-building and world-building that it became a bit heavy from a third through the book.
SkyeWright More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher I was able to read this book in exchange for an honest review. *** The Bird King is a beautifully lyrical tale that tells the tale of beautiful concubine Fatima during the age of the rise of the Spanish Inquisition and the end of her world as she knows it. When emissaries of Ferdinand and Isabella arrive to the palace Fatima grabs her best and only friend, Hassan, and flees when she realizes the danger he’s in. The two go on a journey to find the island the bird king was, learned from an uncompleted poem they’d read, in the hopes they will be safe there. Danger dogs their steps and the cost of freedom is high. The story is fairly slow paced despite everything that is going on and the dangers faced but the prose are beautiful. I love the exploration of love. Fatima, a concubine has had no choice really on what’s happened to her body or her and her view of love is very skewed. Even her entirely platonic love for Hassan is quite skewed, because how she knows he loves her for her and not her body she is fiercely possessive of him and his attention and it’s an interesting exploration of the relationship between the two of them. Also, if the author ever decides to do a story that just focuses on Vikram I will be there in a heartbeat, Vikram was a breath of fresh air (violent, protective, hilarious, and annoyingly vague) and I loved him most.
ShesGoingBookCrazy More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication. Content Warning: Death, Slavery, Harem, Torture, Violence, Attempted Rape, Alcoholism, Religious Persecution/War, Adult Content This review may contain spoilers! ”Long ago, all the birds of the world began to forget their history and their language because they had been leaderless for so long. So a brave few sought out the king of the birds, a king in hiding--the wisest and greatest of all kings, living on the island of Qaf in the Dark Sea beneath the shadow of a great mountain. Waiting for those with the courage to seek him.” I’m not really sure what I just read. I’ve read books that have simply floored me, and left me with a similar initial sentiment. They were books that called for me to mull them over for a period of time after turning the final page because there was so much to digest. The Bird King, however, doesn’t relate. I literally don’t know what I read. I've had time to ruminate on it, yet, little has become more clear. She was the last reminder of a time of prosperity, when pretty girls could be had from Italian slave merchants for unearthly sums; there had been no money and no victories since. Despite my previous statement, this book had a strong start. The first quarter of it drew me in like a sponge with the world building and coherency. Fatima, a young, beautiful girl, is the last Circassian concubine to the last sultan of Granada in the Iberian peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal). She is long friends with the royal and uncanny cartographer, Hassan. It’s no secret that his map-making skills are more than ordinary ink on parchment, which ultimately, is the reason for the start of their long quest. Set in 1491, during the Spanish Reconquista, the sultan informs Fatima that their country is on the brink of ruin. With armies from Castile and Aragon pressing in, supplies being cut off, and money running out, the small Muslim empire soon would become extinct. Shortly after this information is divulged, Christian visitors under a banner of peace arrive at the palace, for reasons not fully disclosed. Fatima soon becomes warm acquaintances with Luz, an emissary, so-to-speak from the newly-formed country of Spain. ”She’s very clever, this Queen Isabella of Spain--or if she isn’t, there are very clever people advising her. I assumed the general was their hawk--that they went their military man to bully our military men. But they know us better than we know ourselves, it seems. They know my son does not love his viziers or his generals. The people he loves are here, in the harem. They sent their dove to the men. The hawk, they have sent to us.” Shortly after, Fatima discovers that Luz is actually from the Inquisition, which marks the fall of security for her and her special map-making friend. Deemed a sorcerer for his abilities, Fatima helps Hassan flee beneath the palace to escape the Inquisition. A lot happens after this point. The book itself feels like it’s split into three parts--the beginning, a long voyage, and the mystical war in the end. It also starts off feeling like a historical fiction, then completely transforms into fantasy story as it nears the end. Personally, I thought it felt disjointed. The more the plot progressed, the less it also made sense. I really enjoy reading about folklore and fairy tales from differe
TheWordN3rd More than 1 year ago
Set in 1491 Granada, during the last days of the Iberian sultanate this follows the sultan’s concubine, Fatima, trapped despite her lavish surroundings. The one bright spot in her days are her visits to her friend Hassan, a mapmaker with the singular ability to draw things he has never seen. When a delegation from Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain comes to talk surrender, the outsiders discover Hassan’s “unnatural” magical ability. With the Inquisition looming over them, Fatima and Hassan escape the palace and flee across the Spanish countryside, searching for a place where they can be safe and free. In The Bird King, Wilson weaves magic into the real world. Fatima, and the readers, begin the story grounded in the familiar with only the hint of Hassan’s magic and are slowly drawn into an increasingly fantastical world. The atmosphere was exquisite. The prose was beautiful and descriptive without being overwrought, perfectly matched with the setting of the story. Fatima as a main character was so compelling. You understood her struggle, understood why she wasn’t content to stay in the palace. I felt that her central storyline was a little rushed at the ending, but it was poignant and communicated clearly. However, as this was an ARC, these issues may have been corrected for the finished version. Please note that at the beginning of the novel, Fatima is in a non-consensual relationship. It is not a violent relationship and there are no graphic scenes, but it is discussed in detail on multiple occasions in the first quarter or so of the book.If that is something that would bother you, I would approach with caution. Her friendship with Hassan was heartwarming and wonderful, though I could have done without the multiple laments that his sexuality meant they could not be together. Perhaps if this had been raised by an outside character it wouldn’t have rankled me, but as it was I found the complaints undermined the platonic nature of their friendship. It was entertaining to see how each new character introduced affected our little twosome, for the better and for the worst. I loved how even Wilson’s side characters felt real, like people you might share a few words with standing in line or pass on the street. The plot is a touch on the slower side, but I found myself pulled in almost immediately by the strength of the characters and the initial questions surrounding Fatima’s position and Hassan’s magic. The beginning and middle of this book were solid. No sagging middles here, the tension through acts one and two held perfectly for me. I did feel things got a little muddled toward the end and that, along with the lack of any solid romance, did keep this from being an instant favorite. However, I think that anyone who enjoys historical fantasy, magical realism, and stories focused on platonic friendships would really enjoy this book.
Mbhills More than 1 year ago
The Bird King is unlike any novel I have read before. It is set in the 15th century when Granada, one of the last places in Spain that is Muslim, is being taken over by the Christians. Fatima is a royal concubine who chafes at being a slave and wishes for freedom. Her one light in life is her friend Hassan who is a map maker. He is her dear friend and she would do anything for him. One day a Christian envoy is sent to their palace and Fatima meets Luz. What unfolds is her chance to save her one and only friend and an opportunity for freedom. The novel intrigued me from the beginning. At first I thought it had a historical fiction vibe to it but there are elements of fantasy that keeps one guessing and wanting to know what will happen next as well as plenty of action. This novel was extremely unique in that I have never read anything quite like it. I recommend anyone who is searching for something new and unique to give this novel a try. I am extremely grateful that I won this book from Bookish First.
kmg7777 More than 1 year ago
The core of a true fairy tale is to impart a lesson in a story that draws people in. The Bird King is masterful at this, telling a story about a young woman and her friend that flee their home when they are persecuted for their faith. While the story is a grand adventure, and beautifully told, it also asks you to question faith and acceptance as well as the power a person has within them when they focus less on material things and instead on their own potential and the things they hold true. The story flips the script on a traditional fairy tale based in old Europe by telling the story of Fatima, a concubine, and Hassan, her friend who is gay and possesses the ability to bend geography with his mapmaking skills. The Inquisition is moving south through Spain, and conquering land of people with different traditions and faith. Fatima and Hassan flee and as they are pursued by Luz, the Inquisitor, they decide to search out the island of the Bird King, a tale begun for them and told out in many ways by them over the years. Along the way they have assistance and resistance from jinn and a Breton monk. This is an absolutely beautiful story.
fictionaltiff More than 1 year ago
Fatima seeks freedom; air that is her own and a world that she can be a master of. A concubine in the last emirate of Muslim Spain, Fatima finds an opportunity to run before her that she must immediately seize or forever live in regret. It is a dangerous journey, but will result in pure freedom, a fulfilled destiny, and most important, it will save her best friend's life. As Fatima flees in the night with not a moment to spare, the reader too escapes reality and is transported to a world filled with endless unknowns and possibilities. Fatima and Hassan discover new creatures and magic around every corner and as they learn more about the world outside of what they once knew. But with new discoveries comes the constant danger of the Holy Office, which seeks to capture Fatima and Hassan and make them mindless followers of their religion. A coming-of-age journey that is young adult meets fantasy and makes for an all-around wonderfully unique story. The moment Fatima realizes that she's never owned her own pair of shoes or seen outside the court's walls was the moment I became emotionally invested in this story and couldn't stop reading. I'll be keeping an eye out for more books from this author, as she has the ability to conjure up magical creatures and landscapes that transported me to everywhere I wanted to go: from the forest and mountains to the beaches and sea and all of the magical places I could never see. Overall, four out of five stars -- I never gasped, laughed, or cried outwardly, but was still provided plenty of entertainment, girl power, and life takeaways... and a leviathan, which is almost as important as everything else, in my opinion.
lostinagoodbook More than 1 year ago
I found this book fascinating. The setting is uncommon. I don’t think I’ve read another recent book that focuses on a Muslim civilization during the Spanish Inquisition. I’m sure there are some but not that I’ve come across in the Fantasy genre. The setting lends itself to a book with rich description and detail. Fatima is truly the star of this show. She is a concubine to the last Sultan in Granada and has been raised to be a creature of “love”. In reality she is a slave. She has been raised to be used by the Sultan, and while she is somewhat fond of him, in her heart of hearts she recognizes the truth of her situation. She is beleaguered but also a little spoiled. She does not know severe hardship, cold, or want. Now with the rise of the Catholic inquisition she has choices to make. Everything about her life, and that of her dearest friend stands in opposition to the new regime. Her life until now has been one of waste, her talents and abilities misapplied to the petty jealousies of court life. But if she is to escape a cruel fate she must reach out to grasp her full potential. It’s a beautiful book. I noticed quite a few DNF’s and complaints on Goodreads in particular that the book is slow. I think that maybe this is because the readers were expecting a different type of book. This is not a book to speed through, and Fatima is not the usual “strong girl” that I think some readers are coming to expect from books. She’s not a fighter per se. There are some action scenes, but they are not the focus. The real action is in her personal growth and that of the people around her. I enjoyed the book very much and will be looking forward to reading more from this author. Song for this book: Marrakesh Night Market – Loreena McKennit Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley
sirious More than 1 year ago
In a world set roughly five centuries ago, a concubine named Fatima, and a magical mapmaker named Hassan, are thrust into a high speed chase for their lives in a time when Spain was blended with Muslim and Christians. G. Willow Wilson gives the readers a story with wonderful building of characters that spark thoughtful discussion on the meaning of faith in ourselves. Shown specifically from Fatima’s point of view, the world she faces is torn, as she desperately seeks asylum at a place across the Dark Sea where the Bird King resides. A thrilling journey is set out for the two, along with a Jinn named Vikram, who guides them tentatively toward the freedom they seek. With a different pace towards the end of the book, the romance and intrigue spark fulfillment for the elusive final pages. Highly recommend for those looking for a slower read with a ton of journeying along the way. Fantastic!
conni7 More than 1 year ago
The author, G. Willow Wilson, did a spectacular job of writing a book that is part fantasy and part magic. I loved how everything blends together seamlessly, at times keeping me so riveted to the pages that I started to feel as if the mundane chores of everyday life were seriously and unnecessarily keeping me away from this story. The main character, Fatima, a girl who was born into a Sultan’s harem, and never lived outside of the castle, was catapulted into a situation where she had to run for her life and spent much of the book looking after her close friend, Hassan, the Sultan’s cartographer. Fatima rises to the challenges she faces, and even though it seems at times as if leaving Hassan behind would hasten her on her journey, she refuses to go without him. So we have a strong, caring female character as a big bonus in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and I would love to read more books by Wilson.
Bookapotamus More than 1 year ago
The Bird King is an epic fantasy set in a new empire in the 15th century. There’s some fun characters, including Fatima - a concubine, who has been promised to a Muslim sultan, but she would rather send time with her friend Hassan - a cartographer. They lazily spend their dates dreamily telling stories of The Bird King, a ruler of the past who seems to have disappeared. But their days of dreaming soon comes to an end when the sultan is demanded to surrender to a newly formed monarchy and Hassan is sought out for his map making skills - a fantastic premise in itself (so cool!) - which could be dangerous if fallen into the wrong hands. So the two set off and leave the only place they know as home - to avoid capture with a reluctant by clever guide. The story telling here is gorgeous - the writing is so dreamy and sharp at the same time. I loved the adventure - I was riveted from start to finish and even felt my heartbeat raising as certain points in the story! Its a really fun story of a race towards freedom, strong friendships and love, and an epic journey.
MissyReadinginPA More than 1 year ago
I received an advance copy of The Bird King from Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this book. The summary of the plot seemed like it was right up my alley. Fantasy and history. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish it. I got to 36% and determined that I just lost interest. It's very slow pace, in my opinion, and sometimes just drones on. I liked the beginning when Fatima was in the palace and interacting with the sultan and the various other characters. Once the story line in the palace finished, I got tired of the journey pretty quickly. I'm disappointed because the world building was great and the premise itself was so promising. It's nothing against the author, really. It's really more with me and what keeps my mind locked on a story.
CaptainsQuarters More than 1 year ago
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . . This was a heart-achingly beautiful book. I was drawn to this title because of the lovely cover and because there is a character who can draw magic maps. Ye all know how this Captain loves maps of any kind (Arrr!). And while I loved how the maps worked, turns out that they were the least awesome part of the book for me. Because the two main characters, Fatima and Hassan, were the beacons of love and delight in this tale. Reading this book is like watching a blossom unfold before yer eyes. It takes forever to get to the end point and yet the journey of the blooming is part of the magic. It progresses slowly and subtly and there is a sense of wonder when it be over. This book starts the voyage in the form of a historical fiction tale. It is set in 1491 in the Iberian peninsula. The last Muslim stronghold, Grenada, is poised to fall to an Aragonese and Castilian force led by Ferdinand and Isabella of what would become known as Spain. Fatima is a slave living in the Alhambra palace during the siege. She is a concubine to the Sultan and a companion of the Sultan’s mother. Fatima is pampered and spoiled but cannot forget that her position is tenuous and she is not free. Her only friend is Hassan, the maker of the magic maps. The historical fiction part starts to slowly morph into fantastical elements with the introduction of Hassan and his maps. Hassan’s maps are a thing of wonder because they be of places he has never visited. While his skill is utilized, he is not a treasured member of the Court because his magic makes people uneasy. Worse yet, he is gay in a society where that should equal death. But desperate times cause his nature to be an open secret. Fatima often sneaks out of the harem to spend time with her friend. Hassan makes maps so Fatima can visit off-limit places within the palace. One of the other games they share is making up endings to an unfinished tale called The Bird King. However with the siege in full force, starvation mounting, and surrender on the horizon, both Hassan and Fatima’s lives are irrevocably changed. For a delegation has arrived at the palace to discuss the terms of the treaty to end the war with the Sultan on the losing side. One of these terms is that Hassan must be turned over to the Christian delegation and the Inquisition for being a sorcerer. And this be where the book truly starts to grow. The magic elements sprout with the addition of a jinn named Vikram. As Hassan and Fatima flee for their lives, the magic elements continue to develop until the reader doesn’t know what is real and what isn’t. I won’t spoil any details for ye here but I am so glad that I was given a chance to read this wonderful book and see the story fully bloom. So lastly . . . Thank ye Grove Press! Side note: the book also introduced me to a type of bird I had never heard of – hoopoes. Arrr!
Angie0184 More than 1 year ago
I'd give this book 3.5 stars for the sheer beauty of the first 2/3rds of the book. Fatima, a concubine, rescues her favorite mapmaker, who happens to be gay moments before he's taken to be tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. They're helped along their journey by a singular talent of his, a literal ability to change landscapes and buildings just by drawing it, and by a jinn named Vikram. Chaos ensues in the last 1/3rd, a map of an island is drawn and there's weird symbolism hinted at obscurely that I'm either too stupid to understand or was just truly pointless. The writing is lush, the characters are beautifully imbued with life and that's what saved this book because the ending was jarring and slapdash.
onemused More than 1 year ago
"The Bird King" is a cross between historical fiction and fantasy. We follow Fatima, a concubine/slave who desires her freedom, and Hassan, a gay mapmaker who has some magical abilities. They are close friends, and as their world is changing, they must rely on each other to survive. They are part of Muslim Spain, which is about to be conquered through a war. The Inquisition is also rising and Hassan is in danger as a result. With a lyrical tone and magic interwoven into historical events, this was an interesting read. I will say that it lost me a few times, getting bogged down into various characters who became hard to follow at times. I enjoyed the overall plot and the deep friendship between Fatima and Hassan, which was truly beautiful. The magical elements really made it into something different and unexpected, as these weave throughout the events of the past. They are relatively minor for most of the book, and this definitely had more of a historical fiction feel versus fantasy for most of the book. Overall, it was an interesting story of a great friendship and a magical journey through the past. I do wish it was faster-paced, but it is full of lush descriptions and has a poetic tone that will appeal to certain audiences. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through bookish first. All opinions are my own.
JNHK73 More than 1 year ago
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson is a wonderful and whimsical tale of fantasy which takes during the reign of the last sultan. Our main characters are Fatima — the sultan’s concubine and Hassan — the palace mapmaker. Friends and confidants, the pair escape their imprisonment choosing freedom in place of comfort. Along the way they meet enemies, new friends and fantastical beings. The writing is rich and diverse. The plot is interesting and fast-paced. The characters are well written and very lovable (or very easy to despise — in the case of the villains). While reading this novel it was very easy to imagine the characters, their surroundings and their adventures. This book could easily become an epic fantasy film! Thumbs up for this enjoyable tale of friendship, love, loss and the meaning of freedom.