Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
I have received an eARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve owned an eARC of this book for such a long time, but then got less enthusiastic about it and forgot it existed for months. Then I read someone say that this author’s books were fast-paced and quick to read and I decided well – might just pick it up. I’m so glad I did!
The Bird King is the story of Fatima, a concubine to the last Sultan in a reign at war with Spain, and Hassan, a mixed-blood map-maker who has magical abilities. When the Spanish Inquisition demands that Hassan, who they deem a heretic sorcerer, be given to torture and certain death, Fatima knows she must run away with him, even if it means treason and never seeing again the palace she calls home. But it means to her also freedom, and that is something she’s willing to give up a lot for.
This unassuming gem has one of the most interesting settings and worlds I’ve seen in a while – Spanish Inquisition, Sultans, djinns, magical powers and a fairy tale that might just be true of a magical land where one can be free? This was wonderful. I wished there had been more world building, but that would probably have made the story a lot slower, and I truly appreciated how quickly this read. It’s full of adventure, fun, it’s a bit dark but not too dark, and generally a really good time.
I loved that the villain was a woman working with the Spanish Inquisition, a lovely and sweet, righteous woman who believes she’s working with the guidance of God, but the reality of who’s whispering in her ear is quite something else. She was so great and ruthless, I adored the scenes where she appeared.
This book loves getting trope-ish things and turning them around, like the concubine who falls in love with the Sultan, or the friends who run from their oppressive homes and fall in love… don’t expect that. It’s a really good book with a great story that feels both original and comfortable in the way it’s told.
I loved the djinns as well! They brought such vibrancy to the story.
I highly recommend this book! In the end I do wish there had been more world building and a little more character development, both things which are my personal preference when it comes to fantasy. But if you love fast-paced stories, adventure and a bit of darkness to your fantasy books, you’ll love this! I can’t believe this book isn’t more hyped!