Court of Lions by Jane Johnson
|Court of Lions by Jane Johnson|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: A romance in Moorish Granada mixed with a contemporary tale of danger and intrigue make this a memorable, evocative read that will sweep the reader away to exotic climes.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 496||Date: July 2017|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
|External links: Author's website|
Kate Fordham arrived in the sunlit city of Granada a year ago. In the shadow of the Alhambra, one of the most beautiful places on earth, she works as a waitress serving tourists in a busy bar. She pretends she's happy with her new life – but how could she be? Kate's alone, afraid and hiding under a false name. And fate is about to bring her face-to-face with her greatest fear. Five centuries ago, a message, in a hand few could read, was inscribed in blood on a stolen scrap of paper. The paper was folded and pressed into one of the Alhambra's walls. There it has lain, undisturbed by the tides of history – the Fall of Granada, the expulsion of its last Sultan – until Kate discovers it. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate's life forever.
I spent a lot of time in Andalucía as a child – for a few years my half terms were spent in the glorious sunshine with my Grandparents, enjoying the varied scenery and wonderful people of Southern Spain. One place that stuck in my mind particularly was the beautiful Alhambra in Granada – and author Jane Johnson transports the reader there – both to the tourist attraction that it is today, and to the royal palace at the heart of a nation that it was many hundreds of years ago. Johnson's descriptions are dizzyingly transporting, meaning that I was unable to resist being fully swept up into the story – a historical romance that spans the ages, and blends gripping plots from the past and the present day to form a plot that's as thrilling as it is emotional.
The cast of characters is, initially, rather small – Kate Fordham is the modern day character, working as a waitress in Grenada in order to escape a horrifying past. It's here that she begins to stumble across the story of Blessings and Mohamed – living in Grenada shortly before the city fell in 1492 – the last outpost of Moorish rule falling to the Catholic Spanish. The tale of Blessings and Mohamed takes most of the focus in the book, and rightly so – it's full of adventure, excitement, sacrifice – and a love story that, whilst relatively unrequited, is nevertheless beautiful and moving. It gripped me to such an extent that, at times, I was rather reluctant to join Kate in the modern day world – but her story turns out to be just as compelling. The characters are cleverly drawn and vividly brought to life – they're all flawed, but the main cast are both readable and likeable, and it's such a pleasure to spend time in their company that I was extremely disappointed to finish the book.
For the most part, the events described in the book are fiction – but Johnson has done her research when it comes to the Fall of Granada, and not only describes the events of that in chapters that are both thrilling and upsetting, but she takes pains to give a voice to Sultan Abu Muhammad – known as Boabdil to the Spanish and as Momo in the book. He's a character whom history has not remembered particularly kindly (history having been written by the victorious Spanish), but she cares enough to make him a hugely understandable and likeable ruler who makes difficult decisions for the sake of his people – decisions helped by having his faithful Blessings at his side. I'm not a particularly soppy person, but something about the relationship here really touched me – Blessing is a beautiful character, and the air of tragedy that surrounds Momo and Blessings makes their love story one that has lingered with me long after closing the book. Visit the Alhambra, and enjoy the warm heat on your back and the scent of blossom in the air as Jane Johnson allows her world to engulf you with fantastic story telling and memorable characters. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I recommend The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements. Set amongst the English Civil War, the setting isn't quite as evocative as the Alhambra, but it's a read that nevertheless sweeps the reader into a beautiful and timeless romance.
You can read more book reviews or buy Court of Lions by Jane Johnson at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Court of Lions by Jane Johnson at Amazon.com.
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