I’m delighted to be co-hosting the first stop on the blog tour to celebrate the publication in paperback of Court of Lions by Jane Johnson. I really enjoyed this book when I read it last year and I love its gorgeous new cover (although the previous cover was pretty special too). Below you can read my review of this fascinating story which moves between the city of Granada in the 15th century and the present day.
Oh, and do pop over and visit my co-host I’ll Be Fine Alone Reads to read an extract from Court of Lions.
About the Book
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.
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.
Format: Paperback (448 pp.) Publisher: Head of Zeus
Published in paperback: 11th January 2018 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find Court of Lions on Goodreads
The story of Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, known as Momo, is related through the eyes of Blessings, a slave brought as a young orphan from a desert tribe to be companion to the then Prince. Despite their different status, Blessings and Momo quickly form a deep and lasting friendship although for Blessings, the relationship becomes more than friendship. Their relationship will be tested over the years of political turmoil and war as Granada fights for its survival against the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and to protect the Muslim faith of its people.
I found the story of Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed utterly compelling and admired the way the author brought it to life in such vivid and colourful detail. For me, there was a perfect balance between the intimate, personal story of Momo and Blessings and the wider story of the historical events of the time – the plots, alliances, treaties, battles and, ultimately defeats. In the end, both Momo and Blessings are forced to make heart-breaking compromises.
In the contemporary story, Kate’s troubles are domestic in nature and gradually revealed throughout the novel. For her Granada is a refuge and a chance to leave behind unhappy memories and traumatic events. The scrap of paper she finds in a crevice in the walls of the Alhambra and a chance encounter eventually provide the opportunity for her to move on in her life but not before she is forced to confront her traumatic past. I was slightly less drawn to Kate’s story than to the parts of the book set in the past but that’s a personal thing because the modern day story is expertly told. There are subtle connections between the two story lines: secrets, religious fundamentalism and discrimination.
I received a review copy courtesy of Head of Zeus in return for an honest and unbiased review.
In three words: Compelling, well-researched, intimate
Try something similar: Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
About the Author
Jane Johnson is from Cornwall and has worked in the book industry for over 20 years, as a bookseller, publisher and writer. She is responsible for the publishing of many major authors, including George RR Martin. In 2005 she was in Morocco researching the story of a distant family member who was abducted from a Cornish church in 1625 by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa, when a near-fatal climbing incident caused her to rethink her future. She returned home, gave up her office job in London, and moved to Morocco. She married her own ‘Berber pirate’ and now they split their time between Cornwall and a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. She still works, remotely, as Fiction Publishing Director for HarperCollins.
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