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The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

I was sent this book through Netgalley to review – a huge thank you to them and the team at Grove Atlantic for sending me a copy.

I was so eager to read this book from the moment I read the synopsis and saw the cover, isn’t it stunning?


Title: The Bird King

Author: G. Willow Wilson

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy

Publisher: Grove Atlantic

Publication Date: 12th March 2019

Plot Overview:

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 King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, 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 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 walls?

As 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.


My Thoughts:

  • I loved this novel. Simply put, it enthralled me, from the descriptions of the palace to the diverse and complex characters, it was such a rich and beautiful story. I don’t think it’s for everyone as it has some quite unusual plot twists and elements but if you connect with it, be prepared for a moving journey.
  • I loved how the central theme of the story was the strength of the friendship between the two main characters: Fatima and Hassan. It was refreshing to see a relationship between a male and female character, where it was strictly platonic but still deeply loving at the same time. The bond they share was enjoyable to read, and also heartbreaking at times as they have such a beautiful but also very flawed relationship.
  • The folklore or mythology involving Jinn alongside the story of the Bird King is so engaging and I liked the fact that it had Islamic elements too. I feel like there were so many references in this book which I connected with. I believe even to someone who is unfamiliar with these stories or cultural elements, it will be just as fascinating.
  • The depth of this complex world, intertwined with real historical events drew me in. The novel starts off in Spain, during the last vestiges of Muslim rule, a section of history in which I am particularly interested. Although I’m not sure how factually accurate the novel is, it did teach me some new information about the period.
  • It felt sort of like a magical realist novel, as I feel like I need to re read it again to get the full message at times but I always enjoy a book which makes me think deeper and look beyond the surface.
  • The last few chapters were so intense and hit me hard, I’m a sensitive person by nature but these chapters and the end had me in tears – in the best way possible. It was such a fitting end to the tale of Fatima and Hassan and I felt deeply warmed by it.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a compelling and all encompassing story. This book reinforces everything I love about literature and how powerful it is. It had such an effect on me and I know I’ll carry The Bird King and it’s characters with me for a long time to come.

★★★★★ – 5 Star Rating

Do you like reading Sci Fi & Fantasy novels? or do you prefer other genres? Does The Bird King sound like your sort of read? Would love to chat in the comments!

Until next time,

Rumaanah x


10 thoughts on “The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

  1. Hey Rumaanah! I never heard of this book before. What caught my attention was the relationship between a man and woman, full of love but still platonic. It’s so nice because nowadays whenever a man and woman are together, people naturally assume it’s something sexual. So I’m curious to find out how this relationship plays out, thanks for sharing.

    Natonya |

  2. I don’t usually read sci-fi/fantasy so this isn’t my usual read but it sounds like a great novel! This was a really good review lovely!

    Jess //

  3. This is actually the first time I’ve read a summary where it didn’t remind me of another book I’ve read. And I really like that the book focused on the friendship rather than automatically doing what every book I’ve read does and make the friendship turn into a romance of some sort. I love a good book that keeps me wondering what’s going to happen – I’ve missed reading Sci Fi & Fantasy novels, haven’t found a summary that made me want to read one in a while!


  4. I love that you’re always viewing books before the publication date. Glad you enjoyed this novel. It’s nice to read about different cultures and learning new things. It’s assuring to read about a friendship without any legit love relationship between a male and a female. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this story!

    Nancy ♥

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