It’s hard to know where to begin with this book. The two main characters, Fatima and Hassan, live in the Sultan’s palace, the Alhambra, and were his slave and his royal mapmaker, respectively. Fatima, perhaps the most beautiful girl in the world, had been born in the palace to a slave who died shortly after giving birth. Her father was unknown but it was of no matter, her beauty alone was birthright enough. At the point of the story she is a teenager and the Sultan’s concubine. Although a love story of sorts, Hassan prefers the intimacy of other men otherwise Fatima could not have trusted him or been safe when she sneaked into his room at the palace. But the Sultan’s power has waned, emissaries from the Spanish Inquisition arrive, and to Fatima’s horror, she reveals to the evil woman Luz, that Hassan not only makes maps, but has the magical ability to create doors, tunnels, and rooms where none existed before. Or perhaps he only is able to see what others cannot. Once Luz hears about these remarkable gifts, she labels Hassan as a witch who must be tortured and killed. She offers Fatima a life of opulence if she will turn over her friend. But with Hassan’s map making skills, the two of them escape, if only briefly and once having tasted freedom Fatima is unwilling to give it up, nor can she give up her friend, whom she finds she loves more than anyone else on earth.
There are jinns and priests, monsters and magic in this tale, a love story of sorts about friendship and what can come of it.