- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Head of Zeus (11 Jan. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1786694352
- ISBN-13: 978-1786694355
- Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
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.
Having previously read The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson, and having two more of her books on my ever growing tbr pile (now at over 400 books) I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Court of Lions when Head of Zeus contacted me. Court of Lions is part historical novel, part contemporary fiction, part thriller and a bit of romance; so there is something in this for nearly everyone. In the present we follow Kate, who is now living in Grenada and has a passion for the beautiful Alhambra and its architecture. Slowly, drip by drip Kate’s story unfolds, how she finds herself in Grenada under a false name and why she left her family behind. Kate’s story is contrasted with the history of Grenada and the Alhambra five hundred and fifty years previously; those of you who regularly read my blog will now that this period of European history, the Renaissance, is my favourite. This is a period where so much change was taking place in Europe, and in the Spanish territories religion was at the forefront. This part of the plot follows Prince Abu Abdullah Mohammad, known as Momo, the last Sultan of the Moors in Grenada and his fight to remain Sultan against both his father and uncle but also fighting King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, who want to rid Spain of the Infidels, and bring in the Catholic religion.
Jane Johnson’s characters are vibrant and brought to life with skill and understanding. Kate is a troubled character, living under an assumed name, and running from her past. Her shocking back story is revealed through the plot adding tension and suspense to the present. In the past Momo, and his best friend Blessings whom is the narrator of the historical part of the novel, have gone from one war and disaster to another, but throughout Blessings is at Momo’s side. Blessings is a displaced character, sold as a companion to the young Momo, after being forced to leave his African tribe after his mother’s death. His loyalty and devotion are fuelled by his love for the young Sultan, who does not reciprocate his feelings; his torment in his love for Momo is heartbreaking. Both timelines share a common thread of the Catholic religion, and fervent supporters using the doctrine as a form of control. In the present Kate has had a relationship with a devout Catholic whose take on the doctrine destroys her life. In the past Momo has to watch his kingdom being destroyed in the name of religion, his people being seen as infidels and Catholicism being the true religion.
Jane Johnson’s descriptive writing brings the sights and smells of Grenada to life; from the spices used in cooking, to the wonderful flowers grown in the Alhambra gardens, the busy markets to the vast plains of the territory between the cities. Grenada is a mix of cultures, all blending together to make a vibrant city.
Court of Lions is a book that seamlessly blends the past and present and brings the exotic scenery of the Alhambra and its surroundings to life. You will feel Blessing’s torment, Momo’s desperation to keep his Kingdom, and Kate’s fear of her past as it catches up with her. This is a rich tapestry of a book, two. very different stories weaved into one wonderful and detailed whole. Another brilliant book by Jane Johnson.