Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Mar 15

Happy Friday, kings, queens, and Kryptonians! Today we’re talking YA SF/F, Indian lore, Captain Marvel, aliens, The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson, and more.

This newsletter is sponsored by Flatiron Books.

Welcome to Finale, the final book in Stephanie Garber’s #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series! It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist. Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend. After uncovering a secret, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change him. Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun.

YA author CB Lee and I geeked out about Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Night Circus, and YA sci-fi and fiction on this week’s SFF Yeah! 

Related to last week’s review of The Raven Tower, here’s an interview with Ann Leckie about gods, gender, authors to watch, and more.

Remember how much I loved Sangu Mandanna’s A Spark of White Fire? Well here’s a list of five must-read SF/F books based on Indian lore including Spark and Empire of Sand (another personal fave) and I need theeeeeese.

If you need an entry-point for Captain Marvel before you go see it in the theaters, here’s an explainer!

Related, Captain Marvel did incredibly well during its opening weekend, including coming in second behind Black Panther for strongest superhero origin story debut. Oh captain, my captain!

Six hours per White Walker: This is a beautifully produced video about the cosmetic prosthetics on Game of Thrones, for those of you who love a behind-the-scenes look. It has some mild visual spoilers, but I’m multiple seasons behind on the show and didn’t see anything too surprising/shocking.

Do you know how many aliens there are in the original Star Wars trilogy? I definitely did not; but what was even more surprising to me (although it probably shouldn’t be) about this video is that each alien species, no matter how brief its cameo, has a very specific name.

And for my cosplayers, closet or full-on, here’s a Miles Morales round-up.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King cover imageSome of you may have read G. Willow Wilson’s comics work on Ms. Marvel, A-Force, or perhaps her graphic novel Cairo; some of you might have read her first novel, Alif the Unseen (so good); others maybe read her memoir The Butterfly Mosque. Perhaps you’ve just read her Twitter! Regardless, if you’re already a fan and have not picked up The Bird King yet, you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t read anything by her and this is the first time you’re hearing her name, you are ALSO in for a treat.

Combining elements of the Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds and the events of the Spanish Inquisition, The Bird King is a compelling, beautifully paced, and beautifully written historical fantasy. Fatima is a concubine to the last sultan of Granada, coveted for her beauty and captive to the whims of the sultan, his mother, and others in the court at Alhambra. The Emirate is under siege by the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, who have sent a delegation to negotiate their surrender. In that delegation is Luz, an Inquisitor for the Catholic Church, who befriends Fatima only to demand her conversion and the sacrifice of Fatima’s only friend at court. Hassan is a mapmaker with an amazing gift — the maps he draws come true. He’s also gay, and his gifts and sexuality make him an immediate target.

When Fatima and Hassan flee the court, they must try to survive the wider world with their (very limited) resources and skill sets. Luckily a jinn named Vikram has promised to help them; unluckily, there’s only so much he can do. Fatima and Hassan want only to take refuge in their favorite story, The Conference of the Birds. If they believe hard enough, can they find the mythical island of Qaf? If they run fast enough, can they outrun the Inquisition? They find both friends and foes along their journey, and test the limits of their own strength and conviction.

What didn’t I love about this book? (Nothing, that’s what.) Fatima is driven by anger and frustration, leading her to tantrums and poor choices as well as giving her the strength and stamina she needs to keep fighting the forces against her. Her friendship with Hassan is beautiful and nourishing, as well as jealous and dangerous for them both. It was nice to see some familiar characters from Alif (although I won’t say who.) And Luz! What even to say about Luz.

As promised in all the blurbs, Wilson skillfully navigates the dualities of love and hate, freedom and captivity, faith and doubt, choice and obligation, and finds all the shades of gray between them. I laughed, I cried, I bit my nails in terror, and I wanted nothing more than to continue spending time with Fatima, Hassan, and their merry band of misfits. An amazing new book from a genuine talent; and while I love her comics work, The Bird King makes me hope that we won’t have to wait another 7 years before her next novel.

And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda, or on Twitter as jennIRL.

Your fellow booknerd,