**I received an ARC from Netgalley. These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.**
Book: Court of Lions (Mirage #2) by Somaiya Daud
Release Date: August 4, 2020
My Rating: 4 stars
Rep: ownvoices Moroccan-inspired world and characters; lesbian main character and love interest
Summary: 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?
Sacred fire only ever came to the brave and courageous. Hope was given to a person who might reshape the world.
This was the long-awaited sequel to Mirage, which I hadn’t read in a while so I reread in preparation for this book. I liked it even more the second time around and found this story of rebellion against colonialism even more refreshing, so I was particularly excited to read the sequel. Court of Lions takes us back to this lush world amidst a bed of beautiful prose and wonderful characterization.
After revealing her rebel connections, Amani is kept isolated, only to be brought back into Maram’s life for her wedding to Idris. She returns to her duties as Maram’s body double, but she also starts plotting to keep Maram on the throne as the rightful ruler of Andala. Meanwhile, Maram faces her fears of being queen and of being married when she forms a relationship with her mysterious new falconer.
The prose was stunning, as always. It had such a soft tone, which lent beauty to the words. I also thought it was fascinating to include Maram’s chapters, albeit how few of them we have. Being in her head allowed us to see more of her: her doubt, her wanting to be loved and not feared, her desire to be known as someone other than the cruel princess.
The plot was drenched in political intrigue, so much so that I had a little bit of trouble following certain details. It was interesting though, and I liked how everything resolved.
I also liked the characters; it was nice to return to them. Amani is strong-willed and resilient, Maram finds herself anew, and Idris realizes that he doesn’t have to live his life in fear. They all have such compelling dynamics as well. Despite her seeminly traitorous betrayal, Amani really does believe Maram will be a good queen, and she rebuilds her sister-like relationship with her. They put more trust in each other, as well as with Idris.
For some, passion and love are separate, but for you they run parallel along your heart line . . . I think for you, it is impossible to have one without the other.
The romance was as passionate as the first book, but now we have two to follow in this book! Amani and Idris are wonderful, and I loved the growth in their interactions. They do have to face the fact that Idris is technically married to Maram, but I thought this was handled with grace. Anyways, Maram is a lesbian and she has a love interest; their romance was so soft. I loved them, and I loved seeing all of them happy!
I did have a few complaints about this book. First, much like the first book, I found that the romances moved far too quickly. Amani and Idris build up their relationship more here, but I thought they declared their love for each other without much development in the first book. Similarly, Maram and Aghraas have very little build-up before they were suddenly at the “I would do anything for you” stage. Don’t get me wrong, I loved both of these relationships and thought there was attraction between them, and there’s nothing wrong with falling in love quickly. I just would have preferred a little more build-up.
The other issue was the pacing; Maram only has a few chapters, which was fine because they were more about her personal characterization and didn’t contribute much to the plot. However, the first few of them took place before the contents of this book and then they caught up in the middle, which felt very uneven to me. Also, while I really enjoyed the first and last quarters, I thought the middle half dragged a bit. None of these were big issues and were more to my personal tastes, but I did still really enjoy this book!
Court of Lions was a wondrous sequel that had all the passion and heart of the first book. It was more plot-heavy, full of political intrigue and machinations, but the character development was carefully interspersed, particularly in Maram. Pick up Mirage if you haven’t already because this series is not to be missed!
About the Author: Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment.