Fatima is one of the sultan’s concubine’s in Alhambra, 1491AD. Amid the siege and her anger at her lack of freedom, her only comfort is Hassan, a gay scribe who can create maps to places that don’t exist. When a delegation from the Spanish monarchs arrives, Hassan’s life is put in danger and Fatima flees with him, hoping to escape the inquisitorial eye and find a better life.
I loved the blending of history and myth and the clash of beliefs that form the foundation of this novel.
The author has a solid grasp on the events and world of 1491, including a lot of minor details that bring the world to life.
I loved her depiction of jinn, which was different from any I’ve read before and made them fascinating. The island being a part of both Islamic and Christian myth was a nice touch, showing that some things are universal.
Beyond the jinn, there’s the magic associated with Hassan’s maps. It’s subtle and beautiful and while the plot hangs on it, it’s sparingly used.
The characters questioned their actions at every point in the book, which made them feel real. They blamed each other for bad decisions. They forgave each other for outbursts they regretted. Fatima is so full of anger and so unaware of the world outside the palace that her growth arc was huge. She’s very passionate and her reactions run the gamut. Luz was absolutely terrifying and I loved that the author played on a modern understanding of what the inquisition was to avoid graphic descriptions. There’s a little information but mostly the book relies on hints of what happens to those put to the question.
The book is fairly fast paced, with the characters constantly running into trouble.
If you like history with a hint of magic, this is a great read.
Out March 22nd.