CBR11 Bingo: Far and Away
Although this novel could be used for a number of different bingo squares, I chose it for Far and Away, as it is far away from me in not just physical location, but also in time-period and culture.
The Bird King takes place in 1491 Granada, at the end of reign of the last Sultan on the Iberian peninsula, as the Spanish Inquisition closes in on the once large, but now dwindling empire. The main focus is on the journeys of Fatima, a young concubine of the Sultan’s, and her best friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker with a special gift that allows him to see places he’s never been to, or create passages that were not there before. But with an emissary of Christian Spaniards coming to the palace, Hassan’s gift is seen as sorcery, resulting in he and Fatima fleeing. From there we see a story of quick learning and necessity to grow in many ways after being held in a certain life for so long, the instincts of survival, the concept of what it means to truly live, as well as the concept of cages in life that aren’t so clear to see.
What I love about this novel is the magical elements peppered into the story in small but significant ways (albeit, a little heavier and not necessarily as effectively near the end). There is also such a journey of growth for Fatima, whose internal self we see through the narration of the novel. There is certainly a lot of action throughout the novel, which maybe doesn’t allow for as many characters’ development to be seen as clearly, though Fatima and Hassan for sure come across. The one whose journey does seem a little abrupt is Luz, a member of the Inquisition hunting down the pair on their journey, but then, where would this really fit in the story that is presented?
Ultimately, The Bird King was an engrossing read for me, rich in detail, magic, adventure, and an examination of different notions of faith and culture. The writing was also clear and engaging for the most part (I just had a little trouble following some actions sequences, though I know I personally have had this issue many times before and it might just be a thing for me), and I am definitely interested in picking up some other works of G Willow Wilson’s in the future.