Enchanting Tale

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nancyadairb Avatar


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 power to say no to authority.

Her childhood friend is the slave Hassam whose red hair spoke of his Breton ancestry. The royal mapmaker, Hassam has the ability to create maps that alter reality. And while devote, Hassam's sexual preference is against religious law. They have shared secret trists, embroidering the story of the Bird King, whose story they learned from a partial manuscript.

The once great Moorish empire on the Iberian Penninsula is vanquished. The victor Spain is willing to be magnanimous, as long as the Sultan agrees to its terms: hand over the sorcerer Hassam to be made an example. Convert to Catholicism. And the Moors will be allowed to live, subjects of Spain.

The love Fatima holds for her only friend emboldens her; she will not lose the one person who loves her and not her beauty. She insists that Hassam flees for his life. With the help of a jinn, pursued by the army of the Holy Order, these naive and unprepared refugees discover that freedom has its costs.

Fatima's love and faith, and her willingness to lose what had once been her one power--beauty--supports this unlikely heroine as she seeks to find the Bird King's realm, where she hopes to find a refuge for her and Hassam.

Themes touched on are relevant: the nature and responsibility of power, the cost of freedom, true faith versus religious power, refugees seeking their place in the world.

I received an ARC from through Bookist First in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.