Hey everyone, it is my stop at the Court of Lions blog tour! Many thanks to Flatiron Books and the ever-amazing Shealea over at Caffeine Book Tours for the chance. I read Mirage, which had been on my TBR for ages, in preparation for this tour recently. You can read my review of the first book here. Scroll down for more information on the giveaway. Now, onto my review of this stunning conclusion to the duology ♚
Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?
After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.
Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?
“I was not Houwa. I was her shadow, sent out into the world to gather information only to be returned, stitched to Maram’s feet.”Court of Lions
Court of Lions takes up not long after Mirage, when Amani’s tense situation with the Vathek crown is at its height. She is devastated by the prospect of being conduit to Maram’s marriage to Idris, whom she loves in spite of herself. The closeness she had carefully nurtured with Maram has all but shattered, and she has no way to prove her innocence to her. On top of it all, the Vathek is keeping her family hostage, dangling them by a thread to make sure she keeps lenient. Yet the fateful signs are on her side and the fire inside her still burns, her steel conviction and sharp eye giving her the edge she needs to survive.
There is much to love about this stunning conclusion to the duology. When I say I wished I could bottle the feeling of wonder but also, strangely, comfort and hope, this book gave me, I mean it. The language is lyrical as ever, glowing bright with lavish descriptions of clothes, places and people amidst the tragic undertones of the story, like how the tale of Houwa and her shadow mirrors Amani and Maram’s arrangement.
As a translator, the poetry translation aspect of Mirage wasn’t lost on me, though I somehow left it out of my review. That aspect of the plot continues in Court of Lions, Amani can’t help but see poetry everywhere. She needs to go through a healing process before finding comfort in poetry again, though, and what better way to do that but with a poetry competition? I really enjoyed the inclusion of poetry competitions and how they relate to politics as a tool to rise in the ranks of society. The threads of galactic politics seemed to tighten. With a revolution brewing against the Vathek, against Maram, more seemed to be at stake with Amani left to walk the line between two impossible choices.
“I was in the center of the world, but I was not its center. No one cared that my world was about to collapse.”Court of Lions
Idris’ family and the other makhzen children are given a more important role and more personality in this one, it was fascinating to see how their standing with Amani changes as she slips in and out of Maram’s public persona. Maram, in turn, is fleshed out more as she gets her own point-of-view chapters. I couldn’t get enough of them, if there was a possibility of reading the duology’s events from her perspective that still wouldn’t be enough. She is absolutely amazing and to be honest, sapphic royalty. She becomes such a powerful character once she comes to her own and realizes how crucial she can be for her country’s survival in the face of the real enemy.
Along with the characters, in Court of Lions, the world of Andala itself expands. While that does mean you have more names and places and events to keep track of, I didn’t think this made the story convoluted. If anything, it gave the author ample opportunities to explore the nooks and crannies of the world she created that went underdeveloped, and drench it all in Moroccan culture. We didn’t get to read much about falconry because Maram’s chapters were short and time-jumped quite a bit, but what we got I adored.
“A fire was lit just under the mural of Houwa, and standing around it were several women–the one that caught my eye was Arinaas.”Court of Lions
Just like in the first book, women are in the forefront in both the rebellion. The tribes mentioned are matriarchies, and it is a group of female warriors who are fighting to bring freedom to their colonized country. This is one of the many strengths of this duology. Not going to lie, it does up the scale for other SF/F works which doesn’t have women and their stories etched deep into its tapestry.
At its core, Court of Lions is a story of resilience and how important family can be when facing adversity. I highly encourage you to go pick it up if you loved Mirage, or if any of these elements interest you.
About the Author:
Somaiya Daud is the author of Mirage and holds a PhD from the University of Washington in English literature. A former bookseller in the children’s department at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., now she writes and teaches full time.
For this tour there is a giveaway of five (5) paperback editions of Mirage and five (5) hardcover editions of Court of Lions. ENTER HERE for your chance to win!
Open to: United States (US)
Ends on: 11 August 2020 (Philippine time)