Dear G. Willow Wilson,
Can I just say, thank you for your new novel, The Bird King. I have been a fan since I read your novel Alif The Unseen. I thought that novel was an incredible work of literature because it was set in the modern Muslim world, and you made it easy to navigate the technological complexities of our time while still providing us with incredible Muslim characters and delving into the magic of the world that Muslims believe in.
I am so impressed that you challenged yourself to do something completely different in The Bird King by going back in time to the fall of the Muslim empire in Spain and the rise of the Spanish Inquisition. The environment that you build, the politics that you navigate, and the poetry that you use to detail the novel makes for a truly stunning journey. And, in keeping with your traditional use of the magical, fantastical, and mystical world inspired by Muslim beliefs, you manage to weave and thread throughout your story a stunning depiction of the jinn world and how it is interwoven with ours.
At the end of the day, I think there are a lot of Muslim women in this world who may feel trapped by the societies they were born into, or feel pressured by the cultures they are surrounded by and what is expected of them.
I want to thank you for the main character you give us, Fatima, who is introduced as a slave in the Muslim court and a concubine to the Sultan. After reading the book, it’s so weird to write down that initial description of her because she is so much more, and her journey as a character compels her to become far grander than the helpless beginning that she found herself trapped in. And I think that is what makes her so endlessly beautiful to me. At the end of the day, I think there are a lot of Muslim women in this world who may feel trapped by the societies they were born into, or feel pressured by the cultures they are surrounded by and what is expected of them. And yet, with Fatima, you present us with a character that is more trapped than any of us could imagine and you give her a journey that allows her to truly recognize and embrace the agency that she has over her own fate.
And, of course, I want to thank you for my favorite character, Hassan. Every time you wrote about the depth and the purity of Hassan’s faith, I felt as if my heart willed itself to leap out of my chest and onto the pages with Hassan. I want to thank you for your bravery in writing of Hassan’s sexual orientation in the most sensitive and understanding way possible for our community to navigate. The combination of making him the most devout Muslim in your novel and making him homosexual was a stunning decision and the representation this community gets through the journey of Hassan is one of the best gifts this novel has to offer.
Of course, there is so much more I love about your novel. I may even be able to write a book just about how much I love The Bird King. But for now, I hope this letter inspires everyone to go and pick up a copy, and I wish you all the success with this new novel.