Praise for The Bird King
“Steeped in magical realism . . . [and] enchanting otherworldly trappings, it is primarily a novel of ideas. [The Bird King] grapples with who we are, how we love, [and] why we worship . . . [with] prose so vivid and original that one can only read it with envy.”Tor.com
“The Bird King is marvelous in the deepest sensea treasure-house of a novel, thrilling, tender, funny, and achingly gorgeous. I loved it.”Lev Grossman, author of the Magicians trilogy
“A fun, immersive adventure that moves at a brisk pace through lush settings, across dangerous terrain, and eventually out to the open sea . . . [The Bird King] will appeal to readers of S. A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass, Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni, and Naomi Novik’s fairy tale-esque Uprooted.”Booklist (starred review)
“The Bird King takes a time period that’s passed into cliché and makes it new and strange again. In this novel, the real runs alongside the fantastic, one informing the other, G. Willow Wilson’s eye for detail and her titanic imagination pumping together like pistons. She’s incredible. The Bird King has big things to say about states and souls, and it’s going to take you on a rollicking ride while it says them. I was fascinated and riveted and, by the end, deeply moved.”Robin Sloan, author of Sourdough
“Teeming with secrets, violence, and magic, G. Willow Wilson’s characters come alive in a backdrop of 15th century Spain that is at once sinister and lush. By turns humorous and heartbreaking, the world held me captive and I’m haunted by it still.”Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes
“A lovely fable set during the final days of the Reconquista . . . [The Bird King is] a thoughtful and beautiful balance between the real and the fantastic.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] swashbuckling second novel amid an epic clash between cultures.”Publishers Weekly
PRAISE FOR ALIF THE UNSEEN
“G. Willow Wilson has a deft hand with myth and with magic, and the kind of smart, honest writing mind that knits together and bridges cultures and people. You should read what she writes.”Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and American Gods, on Alif the Unseen
“[G. Willow Wilson] works magic . . . Ms. Wilson has not set out to copy J.K. Rowling’s books or anyone else’s; she has her own fertile imagination and fanciful narrative style.”New York Times
“Wilson has a Dickensian gift for summoning a city and peopling it with memorable characters.”Washington Post
“Wilson seems to delight in establishing, then confounding, any expectations readers may have . . . For those who view American fiction as provincial, or dominated by competent but safe work, Wilson’s novel offers a resounding, heterodox alternative.”New York Times Book Review
“Alif the Unseen is one of those novels that has you rushing to find what else the author has written, and eagerly anticipating what she’ll do next.”Matt Ruff, author of Fool on the Hill and The Mirage
“Alif the Unseen richly rewards believers in the power of the written word.”Seattle Times
“Wilson refreshingly, and without condescension, uses Islamic folklore to tell a story of state oppression, resistance and hope.”Guardian (UK)
“Wilson’s voice is magical and effortless, blending real-world issues with the wonderment of Arabian fairy tales.”Philadelphia Inquirer
“A ferocious new voice in fiction.”BookPage
After several years writing comic books, the author of World Fantasy Award-winning novel Alif the Unseen (2012) returns to long-form fiction with a lovely fable sent during the final days of the Reconquista.
Restless, angry 17-year-old Fatima has had a relatively cosseted existence as a slave in the Alhambra palace harem, serving the sultan of Granada as his favorite concubine and his mother as her close companion. But as the sultan prepares to surrender his lands to Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers of the recently united Spain, all that is thrown into upheaval when Fatima inadvertently betrays her beloved friend Hassan to the Inquisition, which believes him to be a sorcerer. In fact, Hassan is a gay cartographer with a narrow but powerful magic: He can create new shortcuts between places with his maps as well as draw locations he has never seen, including some which don't become real until he draws them. Fatima and Hassan make a desperate escape, aided by capricious jinn, but the Inquisition seems always to be just behind them. Their only possible refuge might lie in the fragment of an old poem the two companions have pored over since childhood, about the mysterious island of Qaf, hidden refuge of the king of birds. The worldbuilding is well-constructed but is primarily a support for Wilson's chief focus on character, specifically on Fatima's growing understanding of the nature of freedom and responsibility. Wilson also delicately explores the nature of a love outside the physical through the complex and very genuine relationship shared by Fatima and Hassan. And she has some interesting things to imply about the nature of evil, particularly how it's personified through Luz, the Dominican lay sister who serves as an Inquisitor for the Holy Office. Partway through the story, Luz becomes possessed by a dark creature personified as a mote in her eye; it might be simpler to believe that it's the mote that goads her toward torment and murder, but she joined the Inquisition and carried with her the implements of torture long before the possession. She has the potential to become a better person, but future deeds can't really blot out her past ones.
A thoughtful and beautiful balance between the real and the fantastic.