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10 thoughts on “The Bird King

  1. says:

    “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” 3½ 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 In the end I was glad I persevered but I think a lot of people won't make it throughThis is the first novel I've read by G Willow Wilson and her writing is gorgeous I made so many highlights of beautiful passages and witty remarks The history and mythology is wonderful too It is set in the 15th century during the reign of the last sultanate in Iberia and just before the Emirate of Granada was conuered during the Granada war This was a time of superstition and holy wars; the Spanish Inuisition was in full force spreading Catholicism around Europe with the threat of torture and deathInto this comes Fatima a Circassian concubine to the sultan When the Inuisition declares her beloved friend Hassan a sorcerer the two go on the run Hassan is in fact a gay cartographer with a uniue gift for shaping reality with the maps he drawsI've just loosely described the plot of the first 100 pages What follows is a very long journey across the countryside with lots of close calls and near captures Lots of walking around navigating and cartography discussions plus the occasional gutting and eating of a rabbit It uickly grew tiresome and dull The story picked up in places usually when Luz appeared She is a fantastic villain and the dynamic of hatred and respect between her and Fatima makes for some of the book's strongest moments Likewise the friendship and platonic love between Fatima and Hassan is a highlight “These treaties are made for polities not people Lives are ground up beneath the wheels of peace” Behind this though it does get buried in the slog at times is the pursuit of an island often found in mythology An island of Mount af and the King of Birds Simorgh from Attar's mystic poem The Conference of the Birds Of course it's all just fiction though right? But if anyone can bring this island into being Hassan can The interesting thing about this island as is noted in the text is that it appears in some form in many different kinds of mythologies It is af in Middle Eastern mythology Antillia to the Christians of Iberia Avalon in Arthurian mythology Shambhala to Hindus and Buddhists and Atlantis to Ancient Greeks You can read any number of things into this but I saw it as a comment on the religious conflict in the novel how so many people are fighting and killing one another over details and semantics when really it is all rooted in the same belief Is the island af or Antillia? This is a pointless uestion; they are ultimately the same thing “Nothing is so frightening or evil that it doesn’t come from the same thing that made the stars” A thought provoking read for those who appreciate a very slow burn literary fantasyCW Torture; slavery; attempted rapeBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. says:

    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 Inuisition is running strong and the last Emirate is about to fallFatima 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 KingThe 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 bookI also happened to like G Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen a lot But that being said there's a lot to love right here

  3. says:

    Plot 35 Characters 45 Writing 55The 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 starsIt 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 Inuisition who wanted Hassan dead as they claimed he was a sorcerer They went on a sprawling journey through Spain with the help of the jinn and people they met along the way to seek refuge in Mount af a mythical place which they had read about in a poem called The Conference of the Birds that was supposedly ruled by The Bird KingI liked the way Fatima pursued the hope of a better life and took her life into her own hands She definitely came a long way in the book as she went from a sheltered girl to a fierce woman who knew her own worth However she was a bit annoying at times and the entire book was from her perspective so that did frustrate me slightlyThe plot of the book was very very slow paced and although the writing was simply gorgeous there were lots of things that happened that just felt a bit unnecessary and could have easily been missed out without affecting the understanding of the story and characters Also many parts of the book were really confusing and even when I reread the same bit again and again I still had no idea what was going on The magic was barely explained and the ending happened so uickly I barely understood what was happeningI loved the message of the book though It was a message of tolerance Whether you're searching for Mount af or Avalon or Antillia it's all the same we all just want to have peaceful safe lives no matter which name you give it The book showed people from all corners of the world who were completely different living in peace without any hate and that's the kind of world we have to try to create We're all humans no matter what we believe or look like and that's what matters mostThank you to Grove Press and G Willow Wilson for providing me with an e arc of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review All opinions expressed are entirely my own| BLOG |

  4. says:

    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 uest 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 Inuisitor who wants to arrest her best friend Hassan the palace mapmaker Hassan has a very special skill which is the ability to draw maps of places he hasn't seen and to draw paths and doors that weren't there before In the eyes of the Inuisition this makes him a sorcerer so Fatima knows she must help Hassan escape if she is to save his life Once they escape the palace with the help if a jinn they have a long journey to the coast where they must once again escape the soldiers and Inuisitor hot on their tails Eventually they get there and using his special skill Hassan is able to evade their pursuers and take them to a mythical island home of the legendary Bird King but also one that is common in mythology in many cultures and religions Although well written with beautiful descriptions I found this fantasy based section of the book uite slow and not nearly as interesting as the historical section at the beginning However I note that many other reviewers enjoyed the philosophical nature of this section and recommend that readers make up their own minds 35★ With thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic Grove for a digital arc to read

  5. says:

    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 jinnWilson 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 Edelweiss It came out March 12

  6. says:

    I was a huge fan of Wilson’s 2012 debut novel “Alif the Unseen” I loved her heady concoction of Middle Eastern fantasy and modern hacker culture woven into a truly uniue and spell binding tale I have been waiting for seven years for her second novel and here it is at lastIt started out in a promising fashion Set in Granada in 1491 Fatima is a concubine in the court of the sultan She is a “possession” and has little freedom but manages to befriend the royal mapmaker Hassan has an unusual gift he is able to alter reality with the detailed maps he draws Hassan and Fatima become good friends and find comfort in each other’s company but word of Hassan’s gift travels to the court of King Ferdinand and ueen Isabella of Spain The emissaries of the Spanish Inuisition are sent to Granada to learn about this Muslim sorcerer who could be a threat to Christian rule Fearing for Hassan’s life Fatima urges him to flee with her and flee they do along with a few unusual characters to guide their way One of the characters is a recycled protagonist from “Alif” Here’s the thing I love Wilson’s imagination but the storyline became increasingly random and unmoored It felt very much like she was making it all up on the fly and had no idea herself where she was going with her story The longer it went on the muddier and convoluted the plot becameA 3 for me a ton of potential interesting characters and some good world building but an ultimately aimless and strangely un affecting epic journey I liked it but didn’t love it Here’s hoping her next book is back to “Alif” level storytelling Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for an ARC of this novel My review however is based on the hardcover edition

  7. says:

    I received a free e copy of The Bird King by G Willow Wilson from NetGalley for my honest reviewThank 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 Inuisition Her friend Hassan is in danger for his crafting ability of drawing maps Hassan's maps can open secret passages for places he has never even seen Fatima runs away with him and a Jinn A story of love friendship and culture

  8. says:

    “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 SpainIt is a setting filled with vivid detail where we learn about a time when Catholics take back the territory that Muslims conuered in the Iberian Peninsula specifically the regions of Spain and Portugal It tells us about the Spanish Inuisition the radical persecution that they made to those they considered heretics I confess I usually avoid books with religious themes because I'm always afraid that in a clash of beliefs one religion will be portrayed as evil and another as good However the author knew how to balance it and I was glad This is a story that's read almost like a fairytale It presents historical elements and blends with magical realism This is the kind of novel you might have a hard time understanding as it uses a lot of metaphors and symbolism and open interpretations You will be thoroughly confused in some passages trying to decipher the meaning behind and failing or you can just go with the wind and let yourself be swayed by beautiful lyrical prose as I did The author delivers a rich description of the world she created creating a uniue atmosphere and beautiful imagery that's almost poetic I absolutely loved itAs for the characters we have two main Fatima and Hassan although I think Fatima gets protagonism Even though Fatima seems at first a bratty girl you feel for her This is a story that supposedly does not have romance but it has love Her loyalty her love for her best friend Hassan got my sympathyFatima's undying love for Hassan is unreuited because Hassan absolutely loves her but not in a romantic way he is gay Both Fatima and Hassan are overprotective with each other and if needed would die for one anotherHassan persecuted because of his sexual orientation and ability to create magical maps that bend reality struggles to find someone willing to love him Fatima struggles to let Hassan goThey embark on a journey to save their lives and to find freedom They decide that only a mythical Island where a mythical king lives aka the King of Birds is the only place they will be safe from Inuisition so the book becomes a VERY slow journey to reach the island where Fatima and Hassan go through many obstacles and learn many things In my opinion the journey took too long it dragged through most part of the book and it made me lose interest several times However through the book I got attached to the characters and it made me go on Besides Fatima and Hassan we have three other characters that are relevantLuz a Spanish Lady in WaitingDiplomat envoy from the Spanish ueen is the villain that commands armies against them Her relationship with Fatima is something very complicated and complex Vikram is a Djinn that is fond of Fatima and he has the best uotes As a Djinn he was supposed to be a fickle trickster creature driven by impulses and desires and yet he becomes the voice of reason and honesty many times and never fails to be loyal to Fatima I wouldn't mind reading a spin off of his past because he's that great And finally we have Gwennec a Breton monk that is not yet a priest but dreams to become one He becomes someone crucial in the lives of Hassan and Fatima and I absolutely loved him I would have liked to see so much of him and his complicated feelings for a certain character The end was rushed and a bit confusing I confess I was slightly disappointed It was bittersweet and it left some uestions lingering Nevertheless in the end I felt a pang of nostalgia in a way that a book did not make feel for a long long time I was so sad with the death of a certain character and it was hard to say goodbye to characters that I saw growing and maturing through the story and I felt so proud of them In conclusion this book might not be for everyone and some might perhaps find it boring because this book reuires patience and there are parts where you might get lost not in a good way BUT if you enjoy Historical Magical Realism and Fantasy genres with beautiful prose slow narrative and interesting characters you will most likely enjoy this I certainly didTW attempted rape ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review Thank you

  9. says:

    A few lulls but for the most part an excellent read It felt like I was reading a Guy Gavriel Kay book; which is a huge compliment There is a lot of Muslim culture here that most Westerners are not likely to be familiar with I loved learning about the culture and seeing the world from the Muslim viewpoint And while this is Earth during the 13th century; it has all the magical aspects of the stories we know from that time Use of 'magic' secret islands famous swords etc You can decide for yourself if you think it's fantasy enough; but this uote by a character really struck me as all the proof I need You’ve transported us into open water without a damned idea where we're pointed all by cutting through a fucking rope That’s magic”Jinn LoreCertainly the best characters in The Bird King are the jinn I loved how the jinn told little stories and gave out puzzles and clues that would confuse me until I'd have an ah ha moment later on The most interesting part with the lore used here was learning new stories that sound like some I know but have a spin or different take than I have heard before I don't want to spoil them all as they are so fun to discover throughout the story I will say there is a reference to a mysterious misty island steeped in religion that I immediately identified as a version of Avalon The LadiesI really appreciate how strong and smart the women are in The Bird King Anyone who thinks this story will be oppressive to women because it's viewpoint is from Muslims many will potentially be surprised to learn that the women encountered and those whom are a part of the lead story are all fierce Our leading lady and her friend are all at once adorable and admirable How can you not love a character who is sarcastically told this early on she's technically a slave because she's acting out and embarrassing her owners What will the foreigners think if we can’t even manage our slave girls? Pretend to be meek and obedient for once in your life It will be good for practice uotableThis is by far the most uotable book I've read in 2019 G Willow Wilson has taken so many social issues and brought them done to perfect one line descriptions Additional it's done with intelligent wit and sarcasm A few of my favourites besides the ones shared above If justice is what you want then you may often be right but you will rarely be happy Happiness she decided comes only in pauses brother regularly nor predictablyOverallWilson has given us a true gem I know many will argue this doesn't belong on fantasy shelves and is 'magical realism' For me it's like The Night Circus The Bird King is so well written and put together from a literary standpoint that it belongs in every genre it might ualify for in order to get people seeing and reading it The social connections and empathy that are made in The Bird King between today's reality and that of the 13th century are astonishing Wilson does an incredible job of making this a very relatable story regardless of your cultural or religious background It breaks my heart that we humanity are not further along than we were back then Now after reading this rave review you may wonder why I only gave this 4 stars The reason there was a large ish section that dragged for me I'm not sure if it was just me on that day I was grumpy or that the section was actually a bit dull For now I'm leaving this at 4 stars but I could easily see me re reading it in the future and bumped it up to five To read this and of my reviews visit my blog at Epic Reading Please note I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley This is an honest and unbiased review

  10. says:

    There are few recent books that I have looked forward to reading as much as I looked forward to reading The Bird King And there are even fewer books that I have anticipated that have been as disappointing to me as this one was It was not a complete disaster There are redeeming ualities But there are also a lot of wasted opportunitiesBut first let me explain why I looked forward to this book so much Two reasons really The first is that I really liked G Willow Wilson's first two non graphic novel books The Butterfly Mosue was one of the best stories of religious conversion I have ever read and it almost singlehandedly gave me a new appreciation for Islam And Alif the Unseen was an original fast paced urban fantasy that used an ArabGulf state setting for a nuanced and just plain fun first novel I'm a fan and I pre ordered this books long before it actually came outBut also I am a big fan of Farid ud Din Attar's long Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds I have read this many times and I taught it in my World Literature course for 11 years It is a wonderful poem full of big ideas and thought provoking allegory When I heard that an author I greatly admired planned to write a book using this poem as a model I imagined an enormous set of possibilities most of which excited meSo what went wrong? Well a few things at least in my opinionIn the first place the book tries to do too much and does not do any of it very well It is among other things a historical novel about the fall of Grenada to the recently unified Spain during the re conuista around 1490; a story of the treachery of the Spanish Inuisition; a narrative about the inclusive nature of the pre re conuista Muslim world in Spain shown through the eyes of a homosexual but deeply pious map maker and a runaway concubine; a fantasy novel about the jinn; and a religious allegory based on Conference of the BirdsThat is a tall order but the only thing that I thought it did well was the first thing It did a good job in a sort of Things Fall Apart narrative of showing the last days and the fall of the Muslim Sultanate of Grenada to the fairly barbaric forces of Ferdinand and Isabella This takes up about a third of the book and it is really uite goodThe second third is a sort of bizarre uest story in which Hassan the gay mapmaker and Fatama the concubine try to outrun the forces of the Inuisition which always seem to find them so we get a fairly cliched set of near misses and daring escapes Two of the main plot drivers just don't make sense in the context of the narrative 1 why a full army of the Inuisition is at no small expense chasing one gay man and a concubine of the former Sultan all the way to the ends of the earth; and two why the aforementioned flee ers are seeking the Bird KingI pause here for a wee bit of pedantry The Conference of the Birds is indeed about a group of birds that seek the Bird King But this makes sense because well they are birds and want a king The way the allegory works though the uest for the Bird King only makes sense for the birds without spoiling anything I think it is safe to say that the searchers and the searchee have to belong to the same species or at least the same broad class of animals mammal fish bird etc in order for the allegory to make senseIn The Bird King however the humans possess the first half of the poem and even though they don't know how it ends they decide to go and find the Bird King And because Hassan's maps have a special world warping power they think they can find itThe last third really didn't work for me and I am not going to say much because there is no way to do so without spoilers So I will just say that it attempts to create a religious allegory but the religion allegorized is fairly weak sauce the sort of thing that some have called Benign Whateverism a sort of non doctrainaire universal acceptance that makes few demands on its believers but sort of feels good I don't actually object to Benign Whateverism It is probably the best way to describe my religion But it just doesn't end up producing good literatureSo the final third of the book strains to create allegorical complexity something that really isn't deep enough to sustain a complex allegory and what we end up with is something like a cross between The Swiss Family Robinson and the Island of Misfit Toys scene in Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer I kept hoping that the author would pull out of the morass at the very end and either recenter the story in its historical context or provide a set of ideas worthy of the considerable allegorical attention that she creates But alas the whole thing for me at least collapses under the weight of thick description of thin ideas and I leave the book without having been changed in any substantial way which I think is tragic

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The Bird King [PDF / EPUB] The Bird King New from the award winning author of Alif the Unseen and writer of the Ms Marvel series G Willow WilsonSet in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula The Bird King is the New from the award winning author of Alif the Unseen and writer of the Ms Marvel series G Willow WilsonSet in 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 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 Bird Kindle - the women not realizing that she will see Hassan's gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule With their freedoms at stake what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace wallsAs 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.

  • Hardcover
  • 403 pages
  • The Bird King
  • G. Willow Wilson
  • English
  • 23 May 2016
  • 9780802129031

About the Author: G. Willow Wilson

Award winning writer of comics and novels including MS MARVEL and THE BIRD KING.