I don’t know how to write this review or recommend this book because while I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I thought I would, it’s beautifully written and I could see the story appealing to fans of magical realism and religious fiction. But about 30% into this book, I realized that it wasn’t my cup of tea and while I would have usually stopped reading, I received this book as an advanced reader copy and felt I owed it to the author and publisher to give it a shot and write an honest review.
Fatima is a concubine to the Sultan who spends her limited free time with her best friend Hassan, the palace map maker. But Hassan is no ordinary artist; he can draw maps to places he hasn’t seen ….even places that don’t exist by creating windows and doors to unseen places. When he is accused of being a sorcerer by the Spanish monarchy, Fatima and Hassan escape the city and head towards the unknown. Can they escape their pasts and be free?
I really wanted to like this book. The premise was promising and the two main characters were well written and thought out. I just could not get into the story for whatever reason and found myself reading very small parts at a time. The relationship between Fatima and Hassan was beautiful and a great example of a non-romantic love story. I was rooting for them the entire book and wanted them to escape the lives they were forced into. The jinn characters also added a lot to the overall story and added a bit of comic relief during this heavy story. The language was also gorgeous and the different settings were easy to imagine due to G. Willow Wilson’s fantastic imagery. However, I found myself getting confused a lot about what was happening, especially when Fatima and Hassan were on the run. It was hard to keep track of who was who, where they were, and what Hassan had drawn on the map. I also felt that the character of Luz was not developed well and her motivations, while explained, didn’t make sense in the end. In the end, I found myself bored with the overall story.
I can’t find fault with how this book was written or the characters, despite my so-so review. The story just didn’t grab me and keep my attention and I found it confusing. I would recommend to fans of magical realism and fantasy but not general fiction fans.
Favorite Quote: “…God bless the man who first taught the world how to cure olives. He and the man who invented cheese are two unsung pillars of civilization.”
*I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Expected Publication: March 12, 2019
Rating: 3 Stars