Monday, November 18, 2019

Book Review: The Bird King

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few lulls but for the most part an excellent read. It felt like I was reading a Guy Gavriel Kay book; which is a huge compliment! There is a lot of Muslim culture here that most Westerners are not likely to be familiar with. I loved learning about the culture and seeing the world from the Muslim viewpoint. And while this is Earth during the 13th century; it has all the magical aspects of the stories we know from that time. Use of 'magic', secret islands, famous swords, etc. You can decide for yourself if you think it's "fantasy" enough; but this quote by a character really struck me as all the proof I need:
- "You’ve transported us into open water without a damned idea where we're pointed, all by cutting through a fucking rope. That’s magic.”

Jinn & Lore
Certainly the best characters in The Bird King are the jinn. I loved how the jinn told little stories and gave out puzzles and clues that would confuse me until I'd have an ah-ha moment later on. The most interesting part with the lore used here was learning new stories that sound like some I know but have a spin or different take than I have heard before. I don't want to spoil them all as they are so fun to discover throughout the story! I will say there is a reference to a mysterious misty island (steeped in religion) that I immediately identified as a version of Avalon.

The Ladies
I really appreciate how strong and smart the women are in The Bird King. Anyone who thinks this story will be oppressive to women because it's viewpoint is from Muslims will potentially be surprised to learn that the women encountered, and those whom are a part of the lead story, are all fierce. Our leading lady and her friend are all at once adorable and admirable. How can you not love a character who is sarcastically told this early on (she's technically a slave) because she's acting out and embarrassing her owner(s):
- "What will the foreigners think if we can’t even manage our slave girls? Pretend to be meek and obedient for once in your life. It will be good for practice."

This is by far the most quotable book I've read in 2019. G. Willow Wilson has taken so many social issues and brought them done to perfect one-line descriptions. Additional it's done with intelligent wit and sarcasm. A few of my favourites (besides the ones shared above):
- "If justice is what you want, then you may often be right, but you will rarely be happy."
- "Happiness she decided, comes only in pauses brother regularly, nor predictably."

Wilson has given us a true gem. I know many will argue this doesn't belong on fantasy shelves and is more 'magical realism'. For me it's like The Night Circus, The Bird King is so well written and put together from a literary standpoint that it belongs in every genre it might qualify for in order to get more people seeing and reading it. The social connections and empathy that are made in The Bird King between today's reality and that of the 13th century are astonishing. Wilson does an incredible job of making this a very relatable story regardless of your cultural or religious background. It breaks my heart that we (humanity) are not further along than we were back then.

Now after reading this rave review you may wonder why I only gave this 4-stars. The reason, there was a large-ish section that dragged for me. I'm not sure if it was just me on that day (I was grumpy) or that the section was actually a bit dull. For now I'm leaving this at 4-stars but I could easily see me re-reading it in the future and bumped it up to five.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

I think it's awesome to see books that look at the world from a bit of a different perspective, and this one sounds really cool!