Bird King
by Wilson, G. Willow






Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Hassan has a secret-he can make maps of places he's never seen and bend the shape of reality with his pen and paper. His magical gift has proven useful to the sultan's armies in wartime and entertained a bored Fatima who has never stepped foot outside the palace walls.

When a party representing the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrives to negotiate the terms of the sultan's surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, little realizing that her new friend Luz represents the Inquisition, and will see Hassan's gift as sorcery, and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With everything on the line, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan, and taste the freedom she has never known?

Fatima and Hassan traverse Iberia to the port, helped along the way by a jinn who has taken a liking to them-Vikram the Vampire, who readers may remember from Alif the Unseen. Pursued all the while by Luz, who somehow always seems to know where they will end up, they narrowly escape from her generals by commandeering a ship, and accidentally also the snoozing Breton monk belowdecks. Though they are unsure whether to trust him, because he is a member of the very same faith they are running from, they nevertheless set about learning from him how to crew a ship. And as it becomes clearer both that there is no place on the mainland that they will be safe, and that the three of them are destined to stay together, they set out to do something they never thought possible-to find the mysterious, possibly mythic island of The Bird King, whose shifting boundaries will hopefully keep them safe.

An epic adventure to find safety in a mythical realm, The Bird King challenges us to consider what true love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.





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.





*Starred Review* Wilson's (Alif the Unseen, 2012) newest novel is a historical fantasy set during the violence, bigotry, and hysteria of the Spanish Inquisition. Fatima is a young concubine in the court of the last Muslim sultan in Spain. She has lived a pampered life at the cost of her freedom. When her one true friend, Hassan, a royal mapmaker who can draw maps that bend reality, is set to be sacrificed by the sultan in order to satisfy the inquisitors, Fatima risks everything to escape with him. With the help of various jinn and other unlikely allies, Fatima and Hassan's journey tests their endurance and their faith. This is a novel that thoughtfully contemplates the meaning of love, power, religion, and freedom. But even while exploring all of these heavy issues, this is a fun, immersive adventure that moves at a brisk pace through lush settings, across dangerous terrain, and eventually out to the open sea. This ultimately life-affirming tale of a young woman who rejects her dismal fate and creates her own family will appeal to readers of S. A. Chakraborty's City of Brass (2017), Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni (2013), and Naomi Novik's fairy tale-esque Uprooted (2015). Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.





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 j o ined 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. Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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