The Bird King

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Genre: Historical fantasy, YA
Pre- order: Releasing March 2019

Strange tale in real history

Fatima is the narrator and heroine of the story, born a slave in the Royal Court of Granada. During the era where Christianity was gaining a foothold, and the Spanish Inquisition was trying to create a new Christian empire in Spain. The Alhambra of Granada was the last emirate of Muslim Spain, fighting a losing battle with the enemy.

Fatima has a dear friend, even though she is not supposed to. Mapmaker Hassan is a homosexual man with a talent so great he escapes prosecution.  From the start of the book, we know what Hassan can do.

Fantasy versus Reality

With the real world as a back drop, Fatima and Hassan enjoys little snippets of fantasy conjured up in the confines of the palace. Away from the war and pending hunger, peace reigned despite looming danger.

But when the newly formed Christian Spanish Monarchy: Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, they had sent an envoy to negotiate the Muslim King Muhammad XII’s surrender. It was here where the story turns towards fantasy.


Fatima herself is a girl with a strong mind, she is also intelligent and courageous. Compared to Hassan, who was more timid but more rational, Fatima’s temper had gotten her into trouble. Through out the whole story, there was no romance in between the two. From the start, we already know that Hassan was not interested in Fatima physically. Their friendship is enviable, their bond so strong it makes me jealous.

The Enemy was part of the envoy that arrived to negotiate surrender terms. It did not take long for Fatima to take action, particularly when her friend was involved. They stole away in the night, aided by a jinn. From then on, their journey was pretty strange.


A combination of real and fantasy in a time where war is common. The Bird King is like a metaphor for freedom maybe, or seeing a place where there is no suffering. Although it is unique and interesting, I feel that their journey was long. The stakes might be high ( avoiding death is best reason of all) but what is the price of freedom?

It gets you thinking, what they had to go through when Spain had a change of power like that? Forcing people to stop believing in their faith because you think yours is better, in the end it was the power that lies within believing.

Of course, the Bird King is not a story about religion, but the faith that life is more than that. Not sure if I would recommend this though, I feel that it is a little rough around the edges. Still a good book, nothing to crow about.


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