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The Bird King

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,008 ratings  ·  422 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 B

Kindle Edition, 440 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by Grove Press
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Jalilah I'll answer my own question! I just re-read and it's on pages 95 and 96 when they are escaping the Alhambra. I did not make the connection the first…moreI'll answer my own question! I just re-read and it's on pages 95 and 96 when they are escaping the Alhambra. I did not make the connection the first time around! (less)
Christina While it's grounded in historical reality (the Inquisition, etc.) it is definitely a fantasy. So probably not your cup of tea but it's a great book.…moreWhile it's grounded in historical reality (the Inquisition, etc.) it is definitely a fantasy. So probably not your cup of tea but it's a great book. :-)(less)
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,008 ratings  ·  422 reviews

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Emily May
“The real struggle on this earth is not between those who want peace and those who want war. It’s between those who want peace and those who want justice. If justice is what you want, then you may often be right, but you will rarely be happy.”

3 stars. I have lots of positive things to say about The Bird King, but I am going to get what will surely be the main problem for many people out of the way first: this book is SO SLOW. I honestly considered not finishing it, which I hate to do for arcs.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Umairah | Sereadipity
Plot: 3/5 Characters: 4/5. Writing: 5/5

The Bird King was a historical fantasy book set in 1491 in Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain. There were many things I liked about it, however, there were also many things I disliked- that's why I gave it three stars.

It was about Fatima, a Circassian concubine who fled from the palace of Granada with her childhood friend, Hassan, who could make magical maps that altered the layout of places in real life. They were escaping from the Spanish Inquisiti
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, this novel tells the story of Fatima, the concubine to the sultan, and her friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. With the enemy at the gate, Fa and Hassan attempt an escape with the help of a jinn.

Wilson blends fantasy and magic with history, morphing into an epic adventure, and I love that the story is told through two characters who have never been free until now.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy through Ede
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
I really enjoyed the early chapters of this fantasy historical novel which is set in the Alhambra during the dying days of the Sultan of Granada's rule. In 1491, Granada was under siege with no supplies getting in and it's people slowly starving as Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain close in in their quest to force Granada to capitulate. Representatives have arrived at the palace to negotiate terms when Fatima, the Sultan's favourite concubine discovers that amongst their number is an Inquisitor wh ...more
ʙᴇʟʟᴀ.: ☾**:.☆*.:。.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, fantasy
“Lies are for those who are afraid or ashamed of what they are, and I am neither.”

The Bird King tells us the story of Fatima, a royal concubine and Hassan a cartographer in the Muslim palace in Granada, Spain.
It is a setting filled with vivid detail where we learn about a time when Catholics take back the territory that Muslims conquered in the Iberian Peninsula, more specifically, the regions of Spain and Portugal. It tells us about the Spanish Inquisition, the radical persecution that they ma
***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
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
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.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gripped me. A rich blend of historical fiction, magical realism, and religious philosophy, it is both gorgeous and profound. The characters are all flawed and endearing in a way that is relatable and beautifully true to life. I think my favorites among these are Vikram the jinn and Gwennec the monk.

"The Bird King", set in the last days of the last emirate of Muslim Spain, follows two unconventional best friends-- Fatima, who is concubine to the sultan of said emirate, and Hassan, a map
The Captain
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
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
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
I am kind of bored reading fantasy books set in pseudo-European medieval setting. I've tried to diversify my reads (and authors) this year. So far, I've read 12 of non-pseudo Euro medieval setting out of the total 19 fantasy novels/novella/graphic novels. Yet, I feel I still need to challenge myself to read more and then this book came along.

G. Willow Wilson has dazzled me since I read Alif the Unseen. She scored high in everything I want: characters, plots, worldbuilding (!) and dialogues. The
A lovely novel about a friendship, flight from the Spanish Inquisition, and the search for a mythical land of safety.
I’m a huge fan of G. Willow Wilson’s Kamala Khan, so I was pretty excited to read this book. The writing is wonderful. There are numerous beautiful passages throughout the book, and I particularly liked the interactions between Fatima, the sultan’s concubine and unwilling slave, and Hassan, the sultan’s mapmaker. Hassan is more than a conventional mapmaker: he's able to create doo
Barb in Maryland
Oh wow! 4.5 stars for this marvelous blend of historical fiction and magic realism.

More once I get my thoughts organized.

ETA 4/2/2019---
Sometimes it helps to sit back and actually think about what you've just read. When I first finished this I was basking in a warm glow of having read an intelligent, intriguing book. Now, several days later, I realize that the book didn't stir me emotionally. I liked Fatima and Hassan well enough, but there was something that kept me from relating to them as rea
Alexia Cambaling
I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Grove Press!

The Bird King is a historical magical realism fantasy set during the last days of the Reconquista. In the beginning of the book, there is an element of despair and melancholy as the combined forces of Castile and Aragon start to close in on Granada.

The book stars Fatima, a slave in the sultan’s harem and her dearest friend, Hassan, a mapmaker who can create maps of places he’s never s
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
All the stories poems are true!

I gave this book my full attention until the 80% mark after which I mostly skimmed because having called out who the Bird King was in the first couple of chapters I felt very meh about the entire thing being revealed. The fact that it got really preachy really quickly didn’t help either:

“Fear only God,” murmured Vikram, pulling her onward. “Not man, nor beast, nor jinn, nor death: fear only God and you will be safe.”

The things I liked about The Bird King :

the w
Sheila Goicea
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
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
Lauren Stoolfire
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson was one of my most anticipated novels and I'm honored to have been approved. Luckily for me, Wilson's new historical fantasy novel really delivered. Wilson's writing is absolutely captivating. I adored all of the historical detail and the research that clearly went into the novel. It really makes me want to learn more about the Emirate of Granada. That said the mythology and magic featured in the
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Set in the late 15th century, in the besieged palace of Abu Abdallah, the last Emirate of Granada in Iberia. A emissary from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella is sent to negotiate the surrender of the Muslims, led by a religious zealot and member of the Spanish Inquisition. Fatima is the Sultan’s concubine, the companion of his aging but caring mother, and has been a slave since birth. Her best friend is Hassan, the palace mapmaker, whom she is not supposed to see because she belongs to the Sult ...more
Lili  Marcus
I initially rated this 3.5 stars but as I write the review, I realized I don't have that much of a complaint.

The book is set in 1491 Granada and tells the story of Fatima who is a Circassian concubine. She fled from the palace along with her friend, Hassan, who could make magical maps. They were fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition that wanted Hassan dead because they see him as a sorcerer. Because of Hassan, this book just turned from a Historical fiction to Fantasy.

And I liked it.

Fatima is a
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways-arcs
ARC Received from NetGalley for an honest review

Where do I even start with this review? I have had such a hard time trying to put my thoughts on this book to words. Every time I start to write it all out I end up deleting and starting again. So this time I'm just going to be brutally honest and let you know where my brain is at while I write this because otherwise it may never get written. My brain is confused. A jumbled mess, because this isn't a bad book. In fact it has a great message, an
laurel [suspected bibliophile]
Iberia, 1491. The city of Granada is surrounded by Spaniards, isolating the last sultan, who spends his days with his harem and his concubine pretending as if nothing is wrong. Inside the walls of the palace and the harem, a concubine dreams of freedom and wings. And a mapmaker opens doors for her.

This is a beautiful, beautiful story filled with despair and hopelessness that's buoyed by faith and longing for freedom—a freedom that might only be found in death but remains freedom. I know that sou
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
Mel Anie
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed it a lot!
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review can also be found on my blog!

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

CW: homophobia, alcoholism, harem, and religious persecution

When I decided to go for this ARC, I wasn’t entirely sure that I would love it. It sounded interesting, but magical realism isn’t usually my thing. However, the book called to me. I knew that I had to read it.

And, I wasn’t disappointed.

The book takes place in late 15th century Spain, around the time of the Inquisition, when Jews we
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.”
“There is so a real poem," said Fatima, annoyed. "The real Conference of the Birds was written by someone, by a real person. He had certain intentions. I want to know what they are. He wrote the poem for a reason, and the reason matters."

"Does it?" Vikram stretched his toes, revealing a row of claws as black as obsidian. "Once a story leaves the hand of its author, it belongs to the reader. And the reader may see any number of things, conflicting things, contradictory things. The author goes silent. If what he intended matter so very much, there would be no need for inquisitions, schisms and wars. But he is silent, silent. The author of the poem is silent, the author of the world is silent. We are left with no intentions but our own.”
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