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?
Susan and I have been patiently waiting two years for the sequel to Mirage, a book we both loved, and made sure to re-read to refresh us in time for Court of Lions’ release. We both flew through COL in around a day and i’m glad to say we both LOVED it. As usual with time zones etc… I will link to Susan’s review once she has posted!
Please be wary as this review will contain spoilers for Mirage!
“Oh,” I breathed out. “You should never beg.”
Two years may not seem that long to wait for the sequel to a book… any GRRM fans out there know what i’m talking about. But I loved Mirage SO MUCH and when we finally got a release date for Court of Lions I was over the moon. Court of Lions picks up after the end of Mirage. Amani has lost Maram’s trust after she found out she was working with the rebels, all the hard work that Amani had put in to getting Maram onto her people’s side seems like it is lost, and Amani must behave, especially after seeing how easily Nadine can access and hurt her family. But Maram still needs Amani to work as her double, as they are thrust together again, Amani knows this is her last chance to show Maram a different world, one where she could be an equal and fair leader. But there are obstacles in her path, namely Idris the man she shouldn’t love but does, and the rebels that Maram wants nothing to do with. Amani must use every skill learnt at court if she is to achieve the world her people deserve.
One thing that makes this book different from its predecessor is we get Maram’s perspective. Mirage was told solely from Amani’s POV, and trust me I love Amani. but reading from Maram’s POV made us as the reader see her in a totally new light. She may come across as spoilt and quick to anger, but when you look at who raised her and how she is treated by those who claim to love her, you can understand her behaviour and unwillingness to go against her father. Her chapters brought a whole new depth to the book, bringing us new characters as well as a greater understanding of her as a person. Don’t worry though. The majority of the book is still told from Amani’s POV and she grows SO MUCH in Court of Lions. We see her come to an understanding, what exactly is she willing to sacrifice to ensure the safety of her people, who she can trust with her deepest secrets and will her love for Idris overcome their differences, both in opinion and stature.
Sci-Fi and Fantasy blend together to create the world in which Amani resides. Daud gives us an encompassing and engrossing cultural history filled with folklore. We not only get insights into the modern way the people live filled with spaceships and spaceports, but Daud manages to give us their mythological and cultural history through stories and poems… some of which are more important to the overall story than others. How peaceful their lives were before the Vath invaded and forbade many practices, changing their culture completely. You see them grasping to save what is left over, certain traditions they were allowed to keep and it is heartbreaking. There are people willing to fight for change, and others scared of what might happen if they lose to the vath again, and we get to see both sides of the argument: Amani and the rebels see it as having nothing left to lose, whereas Idris shies away from the thought of living through another purge and watching those he loves die
There are battles, and boy are they epic. But death wise… and this is something that Susan and I disagreed on… there weren’t as many as most people would expect. Susan thought the ending was too clean (the darker the better as far as she is concerned) and while I saw her viewpoint, I understood why the author ended it the way she did. Amani’s people had already lost so much from the Vath invasion, not only in lives lost but their culture as a whole. Daud manages to make you feel the losses of the past as if they occured in the present, something that we rarely see but has an emotional impact nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong… there are deaths on both sides… just maybe not as many as most people would expect.
When I was re-reading Mirage I forgot just how swoonworthy Amani and Idris were together… and trust me it only gets worse in Court of Lions. They love each other, that is undeniable, but to be together would mean risking the lives of everyone they love, and they are unwilling to chance it. But this means we get a brilliant and steamy slow burn romance, two people who desperately want each other, but cannot act on it. Even when Amani is pretending to be Maram she has to keep her composure as the Princess would do herself. I wont say whether they get their happy ending or not but I rooted for them from page one.
There are SO many hints throughout this book as to the true characters of certain people, who would end up with who etc and the author leaves us just enough bread crumbs for us to at least have a few guesses. That’s not to say there aren’t plot twists, because there definitely are, especially one at the end that had both Susan and I saying WTF! There isn’t a whole lot of action until the end, but if you liked the more political scheming side to Mirage then boy will you love this book. seeing Amani and Maram working together, growing as friends, leaning on each other. They are the ultimate power couple… without the usual benefits, but some of their scenes together had me whooping out loud.
If you loved Mirage I can safely say you will not be disappointed by the sequel. You can see how the author was trying to make it into a trilogy, and TBH I totally would have read it. But it ended brilliantly in my opinion, there were a couple of loose ends but as a whole the story gets tied together in a nice, neat, emotional bow.