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Friday, March 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Books: In ‘The Bird King,’ the Spanish inquisition sets a fantastical plot in motion

UPDATED: Fri., March 15, 2019, 4:08 p.m.

In “The Bird King,” a novel that begins with considerable promise, G. Willow Wilson whips up a head-spinning blend of realism, fantasy and history. The novel opens in the court of Granada (the last, weakened emirate of Muslim Spain), where a young woman in the sultan’s harem, Fatima, covertly visits a palace mapmaker, Hassan. To allay their boredom, the two friends play at completing the story of a literary classic, “The Conference of the Birds,” of which the palace owns only a partial manuscript. Their friendship is complicated. A gay man, Hassan is tolerated because of his talents: His maps can bend space and make a tower or tunnel appear where none existed before. Hassan’s creations are a window for Fatima whose life is constrained by the suffocating boundaries of the harem. The sultan’s mother, Lady Aisha, humors her and allows her to read Plato, but when summoned, Fatima is obliged to appear in the sultan’s room. As a protagonist, Fatima ranges from self-assured (she wants “to be sultan,” she tells the sitting ruler) to brittle; even Hassan is wary of how judgmental she can be.

A&E >  Books

American Life in Poetry: ‘Happiness’

This poem by Richard Jarrette, a Californian, takes on not only the description of an old house, but what might have happened there and what might happen anywhere.
A&E >  Books

Book review: In ‘The Huntress,’ a dangerous Nazi goes on the run

Kate Quinn follows her word-of-mouth best-seller, “The Alice Network,” with another compulsively readable historical novel about courageous women who dare to break the mold of what’s expected of them. At the heart of “The Huntress” is a woman accused of committing unspeakable war crimes against children in Poland during World War II. The novel begins with this unnamed woman on the run, afraid that her past has finally caught up with her. From there, the novel breaks into three storylines, told by three narrators, in alternating timelines. Quinn effectively uses this structure to deliberately reveal the past in an increasingly suspenseful story about characters who will risk their lives to track down Lorelei Vogt, known as the Huntress.