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The Bird King

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  120 reviews
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 novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird
Hardcover, 440 pages
Expected publication: March 12th 2019 by Grove Press
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Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 worl
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received a free e-copy of The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson from NetGalley for my honest review.

Thank you G. Willow Wilson for this beautiful and enchanting novel, written with rich history. The writing is absolutely magical and rich with emotion. The kind of writing that makes you go back and re-read parts of it just for the sheer joy.

Fatima is the last sultan’s concubine in a kingdom falling down to the Spanish Inquisition. Her friend, Hassan, is in danger for his crafting ability of drawin
Fafa's Book Corner
Mini review:


Trigger warning: Mention of war. Up till the point I read.

I received this E-ARC via Grove Atlantic and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was really looking forward to reading this! I've read and enjoyed Ms. Marvel. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it.

I really enjoyed the friendship between the two main characters! However as I read on I started to lose interest. I didn't much care for the historical aspect or the war. I didn't care about the plot.

Overall this was a persona
***Note: I received a copy curtesy of Netgalley and Grove Atlantic/Grove Press in exchange for an honest review.

A Circassian concubine in Alhambra, at the time of the last sultan, learnes of a threat to her gay friend and decides that they must run away in order to save him.
The writing is beautiful and lyrical, and the story is a mix between historical fiction, fantasy and magical realism. The first part, taking place in Alhambra and the desert, I found very good and greatly enjoyed it, but the
wanderer (Para)
Thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review

What a book. Wonderful prose, great characters, interesting setting...what else could a reader want?

Full review to come.
A compelling story from a harem slave’s point of view. This is the historical moment when Isabel and Fredrick unite Spain and finish extraditing both the Moors (Muslims) and Jews. Due to a poor background in history I was unaware that these acts occurred during the same time period, and with the aid of, the Inquisition.

Fatima dreams of freedom despite being the favorite of the sultan’s court. Her friend Hassan, a mapmaker, has the uncanny ability to add to known maps and make new rooms and isla
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, arcs, dnf
Big thanks to Bookish First for providing me with an advanced copy.

I do not like DNFing books that I get sent for review. It feels disrespectful to me for someone to go out of their way to send me a copy and then for me not to take the time to finish it. However, I am in no mood to force myself to finish something that I am not feeling. I feel another serious bout of depression coming on, and so I don't think it would be good for my health to do anything that brings me down these days. I'm truly
DNF 30%

The Bird King is a historical fantasy novel which follows a Circassian concubine in the royal court of Granada. It's a beautifully written book, and - as far as I know - also a well-researched one; it mentioned a lot of things I know from reading nonfiction about Genoese history (the Genoese were the ones who sold Circassian slaves to rich people, including Sultans - just one of the many awful things they did to make money).

Unfortunately, this kind of slow-paced, detailed historical fict
Krista Baetiong Tungol
The year is 1491. Granada, the last emirate in the Iberian Peninsula, is losing its battle against the Kingdom of Spain. It is only a matter of time before the sultan finally capitulates to the Spanish monarchy and ends their dynasty’s 250 year-old rule. At the heart of the story are Fatima, a royal concubine, and her friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker who can draw maps of places he hasn’t yet seen. However, his ability brings him into trouble with the Spanish Inquisitors who view it as sorcery ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What would you give to save someone your beloved?
What would you give to save your enemy?
When you enter the world of The Bird King, and I sincerely hope you do, you will discover the answer in exquisite detail.
. This is a book to be read one word, one phrase at a time, to live each moment of beauty, of fear, of adventure with Fatima and Hassan as they try to escape the evil of the Spanish Inquisition.
G. Willow Wilson does a wonderful job of mixing 15th Century Spanish Catholic, Islamic and a das
Mel Anie
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed it a lot!
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, literature
Marvelous! It's been a long wait for another novel from G Willow Wilson, but The Bird King is worth the wait. The characters and the story were a joy to read, and my only regret is that I can only once read it for the first time. As with her other books, there are parts that make me put the book down, and have a good think about what was just said or done. And the good feeling I get at the end of her books is almost unique, only Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll can match it. I would recommend th ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookish
I spend through G. Willow Wilson's The Bird King in a few days, enchanted by its exotic setting and well-drawn characters.

Fatima was one of the least powerful in the Sultan's household, a slave whose beauty made her a favorite concubine. Fatima lived a life of luxury, dining on sweetmeats and dressing in the finest clothes, always indoors and barefoot, even while outside the palace walls the Moorish Empire was falling to the Catholic Spanish army. What she lacked was self-determination and the
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was pretty slow and the ending was pointless. I did enjoy the religion and the settings but it’s just wasn’t executed well.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fatima is the last concubine in a kingdom quickly falling to the Spanish Inquisition. Her best friend Hassan has magical powers to create and edit maps, and when inquisitors label him a sorcerer and threaten his life, they run away together, beginning an epic adventure across land and sea in search of the island of The Bird King.

I really enjoyed this novel. It reads like a grown-up YA or even J-level adventure along the lines of The Glass Sentence, one of my very favorite novels (and series). Th
Maria Tane
This book could be separated into three distinctive parts. The first one, which is my favourite, takes place into a very atmospheric setting, the palace court of the last sultan of the Iberian Peninsula. We're introduced to the protagonist and her friend, Hassan, and we already begin getting a sense of the depth of their relationship that comes to be fully understood at the end of this part.

In this second fragment we get to meet some new, appealing characters, and to explore the ones we've alre
Carla (Carla's Book Bits)
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you, NetGalley, for letting me read this book pre-publication.

I was so excited to hear about this book and was even more excited to get my hands on this e-arc. G. Willow Wilson is an author that, while I didn't enjoy her previous novel as much as I hoped, I felt had a lot of potential. The Bird King is, in many ways, much much better than Alif the Unseen. It's artfully written and so much more atmospheric than the fast-paced Alif. And it helps so much, since the setting is historically gro
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
‘What if our stories are like my maps? What is a story but the map of an idea?’

Granada is the last remaining emirate on the Iberian Peninsula and is under siege by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Envoys arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender. Fatima is a concubine in the royal court of Granada. Hassan the palace mapmaker is her friend, and she cares for a stray dog that hangs around the harem.

‘Every hunter has his camouflage.’

Hassan is an especially skilled mapmaker: he can edit
Nusrat Mahmood
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Thanks to Netgalley for letting me read this wonderful ARC in exchange of an honest review.

I took a lot of time to finish this but that’s because I was so lost in the writing that I savored it for a long time. My first G. Willow Wilson book and it amazed me big time. I started it and thought it is a historical fiction about the Muslim reign but it turned out to be a fantasy and it was magnificent. The story is set on Grenada where the Muslim empire is on edge of losing his ruling to the Kingdom
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, first-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a special book.

It covers the fall of an empire, the political dominance of the Catholic Church, and the dangers of being gay, or a woman or...different.

It’s also about magic. Something that you don’t understand doesn’t make it evil. We should all remember that.

But mostly it’s about love. Not romance - deeper than that. Love that can be painful, but is worth all the heartache.

As Fa and Hassan fled from the Inquisition, their only plan was to survive. But their journey changed their purpo
Aug 21, 2018 marked it as to-read
Ooh intrigued...
Grace Kathleen
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
**I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

I have very mixed feelings about this book. There were some things I loved and others I didn't understand. This book has a great concept and really vivid characters. However, I didn't really understand their motivations for a great deal of the book. It had a great start and a confusing ending. I do think it is worth the read if you are interested in reading about the Inquisition and the Christian/Muslim tensions of the time
Jessica Spydurpoet
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The description drew me in: "Hassan has a secret - he can draw maps of places he's never seen and bend the shape of reality." Secrets, maps, the bending of reality? Yes, please.

But I was utterly astounded when I started reading this book and was suddenly...not reading a book. I was there - with the feel of the palace floor beneath my feet, crying for a dog who was kicked by an Inquisitor, hot chills when I r
Oct 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This was the first time reading this author, G. Willow Wilson. I was drawn to the book by the description and the cover. This book was not quite what I was expecting and a bit different then the summarized description.

The story takes place in the royal palace of Granada. Fatima is a concubine to the sultan who has never stepped outside the palace walls. She was raised in the royal court yet bound to the Sultan. Her only friend is the palace cartographer, Hassan. He has the ability to change rea
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Netgalley and to the publishers, Grove Press, for providing an advanced copy of The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson!

First of all, the premise: The Bird King is set in Granada in 1492, a period of time about which I know pitifully little, but was interested to know more. It's astonishing - and unfortunate - how little we learn about Spain during the time of Muslim rule. I don't think I even knew there had been Muslims in Spain until I was in my late teens.

It is 1492, and the era of Mus
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can’t describe this book in another word than beautiful. Because it truly is. Beautiful and magical. I loved the mix of history and magic and how slowly the story unfolds. In the beginning it was a bit hard for me to stay focused for that reason though. I wasn’t sure where the book was going and because it was so slow and detailed, it could not keep me for longer than a few pages. But once I decided I really wanted to read this book and explore its characters, I somehow fell in love with it. T ...more
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Liz Leiby
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
The Bird King tells the story of Fatima and Hassan, of their friendship and of their journey to flee from the Spanish Inquisition. I anticipated this book would be filled with action, (which is the way I like my books!) but it was not. This book focused a lot more on the love we have for our friends, sacrifice, the choices we make and the inner journey one experiences on a physical journey. There were plot points, but they were not THE point of the book. Unfortunately because of that this book w ...more
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Hugo Award-winning writer of comics and novels including MS MARVEL and ALIF THE UNSEEN.
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“...God bless the man who first taught the world how to cure olives. He and the man who invented cheese are two unsung pillars of civilization."

"They were probably women," muttered Fatima, fanning her face with the sleeve of her robe. "If they were men, we would remember their names.”
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