Court of Lions – Book Review

Author : Jane Johnson

Publishers : Head of Zeus

Pub Date : May 2017/July 2017

Source: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)

Get the book from Amazon

Book Blurb

Sometimes at the lowest points in your life, fate will gift you chance. A golden thread of love links the fifteenth and twenty-first centuries.

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great turning-points in history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

My thoughts:

This is almost 500 pages and was a very long read for me as I had to shuffle between reading time and work. I finally finished it after a week 🙂

The story is about Kate Fordham, who has a disastrous past and flies away from it to the Province of Granada. She is broken, thanks to her past, and she just manages to survive in a foreign country living each day in guilt and fear. She finds solace in the gardens of Alhambra and one day when she takes a stroll, she finds this note hidden in the walls. She is intrigued by it and in an attempt to find what the note actually means, she meets new people and finds friendship and finally the courage to let someone else in her life.

There is also a parallel narration, from the point of view of Blessings, the (fictional) royal companion of Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, the last Nasrid ruler of Granada (Also called as Momo by Blessings) . This narration explains the unrequited love that Blessings had for Momo, the war that led to the fall of the Nasrid dynasty and the Spanish Inquisition. This was quite tough to follow, because of various historical references and me not being very good at World history.

Kate’s part was easy to follow and I was expecting something more along the lines of the ‘note’ she finds. Blessings’ narration was little difficult and I was confused from the beginning whether its a girl or a boy. So this was explained towards the end of the book and that made sense. I liked the way the chapters were set, one suspense from Kate and the next chapter begins with Blessings narration or the vice versa.

There was so much love in the eyes of Blessings for Momo, even though the Sultan loved his royal companion, it was clearly a ‘Friend Zoned’ relationship.

All those religious wars.. 😦 I hate to think about it and this suppression/oppression makes me stand with Momo who loves nothing but peace for his people and decides to give up everything for them. And this is still happening!! One day everything is peaceful and next day they are gassing or bombing people. 😦

Moors and Hews and Castilians mingling in souks and markets to buy and sell and exchange news and gossip. Until, of course, the ambitions of the powerful set one against the other.

The author’s note explained why she had written this book around the Sultan. History has it that the Sultan wept after giving away the keys of his Kingdom to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. But this is debated as a story made up, and so the author decided to give the story from his closest ally’s point of view recounting the events that led to the fall of his kingdom. A chance to celebrate him, for what he truly is.

It was beautifully detailed and leaves you with so much pain. I wasn’t that much hooked to Kate’s life and how the story progresses there.

And hey, Christopher Columbus makes guest appearance 😉

I give 4/5 stars. A tragic historical fiction with a little suspense.

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