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The Bird King

by G. Willow Wilson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3591951,059 (3.79)14
From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson,The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. G. Willow Wilson's debut novelAlif the Unseen was an NPR andWashington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she deliversThe Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells 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 toChristian 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.… (more)
Recently added byAzuraScarlet, elenaj, Vespers9, jblopez, heeera, MelMcK5, private library, jessie_mae

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» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Love this book, the story, the characters (especially Vikram). Sucked me in. I marked SO MANY instances of great writing. Highly recommend. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Set in 1491 Grenada, most of this novel reads like a devoted historical novel where the Muslim world is mixed with the Christian at a time when the Spanish Inquisition is running strong and the last Emirate is about to fall.

Fatima, the last concubine, and her friend Hassan, a mapmaker with the ability to open up doors to the Other, transforms this novel from a strict historical to an outright fantasy. But it happens slowly. The historicity of the world is rich and lush and it introduces the world of the Jinn and magic in pure magical realism style, later becoming an outright adventure to find the Bird King.

The old world has died. The only course now is survival. Perhaps happiness. But mostly, it's just finding a place to survive, and if it is with the help of the Jinn and all the creatures under Allah, so be it. Allah made all.

I liked the message at the end of the book.

I also happened to like G. Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen a lot more. But that being said, there's a lot to love right here. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Wilson's writing and characterization are so, so, so, so good but I need to think more about that ending. Not the very end, but the part just before that. ( )
  the_lirazel | Apr 6, 2020 |
This was a beautiful novel. I picked it up and put it down in bookstores several times before I got it from the library, and I'm so glad I did: Fatima is a firecracker, Hassan is a treasure, their friendship is a complex and many-layered thing, and the King of the Birds itself was a beautiful revelation. The bits of Christian mythology and biblical reference used for Luz (a Spanish Catholic character), including the mote in her eye, were so well-done. There's no Ultimate Battle between Good and Evil, and while there is a low-key Chosen One, it isn't his job to do anything except go on being loved and valued, and there is no quest except to find some kind of safety and freedom. It is an unusual, deeply felt novel with very human characters, and I highly recommend it. ( )
  andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
I have a rule for myself when I read electronic ARCs (as was the case with The Bird King): if I absolutely love the title, I buy a copy in hardback, even though I've already read it. Partly, that's because I'm a re-reader of books. But it's also just part of my sense of fairness. If a book is good, I figure I've paid my debt for the review copy by writing a review. When I *love* a book, I want to give more than just a positive review.

The Bird King is one of those titles I'll be buying in hardback. It's a wonderful blend of so many different things—historical novel, magical realism, exploration of Christian/Muslim conflict, an exploration of many kinds of love—and does all of these well. Do yourself the favor of spending time with this novel. You'll have several kinds of experiences at once—all of them pleasurable. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Nov 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Truthfully, there are such wonderfully sad and beautiful layers to this book that it is difficult to do the title justice. If you wish for a brilliant read filled with subtle and fantastical elements, be sure to read The Bird King. It might just be your new favorite read.
While The Bird King will easily satisfy most readers with its fabulous adventures and intriguing characters – I wouldn’t mind meeting Vikram again sometime – it’s also a deeply thoughtful novel about how the world is what our perspectives make it.
Whether or not they can succeed in building a fragile form of paradise together, Wilson leaves no doubt that there are few things—in this world or the next—more worth fighting for.
added by g33kgrrl | editSlate.com, Laura Miller (Mar 22, 2019)
The Bird King is ostensibly the story of a journey, of the limits to escape — but it is also a journey into story, and faith, and refuge, the family we choose and the friends we find. It's deeply beautiful and wondrously sad [...]

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
G. Willow Wilsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Daly, TomEndpaper map artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
studiohelen.co.ukCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Though you have struggled, wandered, traveled far, 
It is yourselves you see, and what you are. 
Farid ud-Din Al Attar,
The Conference of the Birds
For my daughter Safeya, who fought and lived.
First words
Hassan was deep in prayer.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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