STARRED REVIEW
March 2019

The Bird King

By G. Willow Wilson
Review by

Granada, the last Muslim emirate in Spain, is nearing the end of its existence. In this turbulent time, Wilson introduces us to Fatima, a concubine to the sultan, and her cherished friend Hassan, a mapmaker with a strange gift.

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With her debut novel, Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson announced herself as a powerful new voice in the realm of speculative fiction. With her new novel, The Bird King, she has cemented her place as one of the brightest lights of fantasy storytelling.

Granada, the last Muslim emirate in Spain, is nearing the end of its existence, as the Spanish crown rises and the Inquisition comes with it. In this turbulent time, Wilson introduces us to Fatima, a concubine to the sultan, and her cherished friend Hassan, a mapmaker with a strange gift. Hassan can draw maps of places he’s never seen, and sometimes even alters the landscape around him to carve new paths. When a representative of the Spanish government visits and brands Hassan a sorcerer and sinner, Fatima feels compelled to save her friend, and the pair flees the relative comfort of court for the unknown. Guided by a resourceful and witty jinn, the pair ventures out into the world, buoyed by little more than faith and a story they’ve told to each other about a mythic bird king.

Wilson’s tale unfolds with all the grace and swiftness of a classic magical adventure, with strange encounters and new lands waiting with each turn of the page. There’s a familiarity, a lived-in quality, to the prose and sense of character that evokes an almost fairy-tale sensibility, but then Wilson digs deeper, into something as timeless as a myth but much more intimate. As it spreads out before the reader like a lavish tapestry, Wilson’s story becomes a gorgeous, ambitious meditation on faith, platonic love, magic and even storytelling itself, with a trio of unforgettable personalities serving as its beating, endlessly vital heart.

The Bird King is a triumph—immersive in historical detail and yet, in many ways, it could have happened yesterday. Wilson has once again proven that she’s one of the best fantasy writers working today, with a book that’s just waiting for readers to get happily lost in its pages. 

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with G. Willow Wilson for The Bird King.

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The Bird King

The Bird King

By G. Willow Wilson
Grove
ISBN 9780802129031

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