The Bird King

Narrated by: Elmira Rahim
Length: 14 hrs and 8 mins
3.9 out of 5 stars (167 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Hassan has a secret - he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls? As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

©2019 G. Willow Wilson (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved. Epigraph translation © Richard Davis and Afkham Darbandi, from The Conference of the Birds by Attar

What listeners say about The Bird King

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Good enough to suffer through the poor narration

The Bird King is an exciting adventure with undercurrents of social commentary and maybe even a dash of "feminist anthem" for extra flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed the story line and the characters. G. Willow Wilson did a great job of creating whole people - imperfect and complicated, but each one valid in their own right. The blend between the real world and the realm of jinni and sorcery is beautifully done, and I found it easy to gloss over the small handful of events that probably could've used a little more explanation. Having said all that - I almost returned the book after the first 20 minutes. I'm sure Elmira Rahim is a fine actress, and I could tell that she really put forth effort in keeping the characters distinct...but her bizarre emphasis and random mid-sentence pauses were painful to listen to. I can't imagine why she was chosen to narrate this audio book. The narration was so poor that I can't actually recommend listening to The Bird King on Audible - but instead, go pick up the hard copy book and read it to yourself.

32 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Increase narration speed for best enjoyment.

Terrific story! Speed up the near ration and it is beautifully narrated. Really engaging Storey story and a great read.

7 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Poor Narration killed the book for me

I love audio books for my long commute, but the narration was hard to bear. Her intonation made the characters sound haughty and condescending, slow pace gave it a tedious edge and at times I couldn’t focus on the story.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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You Can Ignore This Review

This is a decent story. The narrator's accent makes it all work and she does a decent job with accents. Definitely was skeptical how a White American woman would write about Arabic / Islamic characters. Everything is generally, ok, but one GLARING, IRRITATING, feature of this story: Fatima. Two things about Fatima: 1. If you have lived around Arabic speaking people or Muslims, you know good and darn well that the abbreviation for Fatima or Fatiha is ONLY EVER: FATI (pronounced: FAH-TEE; the a in achoo, not the a in fat, and not pronounced, "Fatty" - as in fat person -, which is what I can only assume this author thought she'd be avoiding by abbreviating Fatima to FA. Ugh!!! Cultural rewrites like this, are annoying and it assumes that readers of a book like this are just not smart enough to get cultural context.) 2. The narrator makes Fatima sound like the most irritating, whiny, self-absorbed, acting strong, weak person that you've encountered in a book; and she is all of those things as a character and the narrator embodies it so well...I cringe every time the character has to speak on anything. She's always shrill while blaming other people or lauding herself. She's fortunate to have had Hassan as a friend... Otherwise, the story is generally interesting and engaging when Fatima isn't complaining, whining, being shrill.

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Refreshing historical fantasy with rich characters

I loved this book! How wonderful to have a duo of protagonists that fumble through heroic roles realistically. Fatima is only 17 and unskilled in the world and the author stays true to this throughout her narrative. The other protagonist, Hassan, is her best friend and gay so there is not a romantic angle but a profound love of kindred souls that weaves its way through the story. How refreshing! I loved the setting of this book in accurate historical context at a moment when the magic of the world was being lost. This book is beautifully written and narrated, and you will not regret diving into this rich world.

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narrator was distracting

I feel like this would be a compelling and engrossing story if read on my own. but the narration was distracting. it took me almost 1/3 of the way through to connect to the story. I really liked it, but hearing it was difficult.

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Audio advice

Speed up audio for a better listening experience. Original narration is a bit slow and pauses in some portions of the book are awkward.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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I found the story hard to follow

I admit I struggled to finish this one. The narrators tone was mostly monotone and the story was disjointed and harder to follow. in my experience as the reader I never became invested in the protagonist

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Terrible Narrator for a Beautiful Book

I don't like lambasting narrators -- most of the time I think it's a personal preference thing-- but wow! This is really hard to listen to! The narrator has strange pauses mid-sentence, or ends a sentence in a strange run on fashion. I spent half my time listening trying to figure out where the pauses actually should be. This is a shame because the book is beautiful. It's a melancholic story about self reflection with a certain amount of magical realism, and 2 characters that are in deep non-romantic love for eachother. It is an absolute treat and I found the ending bittersweet but lovely. I really want to recommend this book-- But I can't recommend the audiobook

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Evocative and Beautifully Told

Although it is true that there are odd pauses in the narration, this did not bother me. I thought the narrator’s-voice and intonation fit the story.