Saturday, 10 June 2017

Court of Lions

Author: Jane Johnson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Publisher: DoubleDay Canada
First Published:
First Line: "Kate didn't consider herself a vandal."

Book Description from GoodReadsSometimes at the lowest points in your life, fate will slip you a gift. Ken Follett meets Jodi Picoult in a stunning new novel from Jane Johnson.

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.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great hinge-points in human 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.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Last year I read Jane Johnson's book Pillars of Light and was impressed with her ability to weave an interesting story set within a historical era and incorporate vast amounts of research and still keeping her readers engaged. In her latest book, Court of Lions, she uses dual narratives to tell the story of two people living in Granada -- Kate in modern day and Blessings in the 15th century.

It is obvious that Johnson has put a lot of time and effort into her research. She brings 15th century Granada to life for her readers - its gardens, architecture, food and cultures as well as the beauty of Alhambra, the stunning palace/fortress in Granada, Andalusia in southern Spain. These historical aspects were vividly drawn as was the religious fervor and power struggles as Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand plot to eradicate the Muslim and Jewish people from Spain and gain dominion over Granada. It was a harsh, violent time full of treachery and Johnson brings her readers into the centre of the conflict.

That said, my feelings for this book are quite mixed. There were certain parts of this book that were a solid 4 stars - the vivid descriptions of Granada, the connection between Momo and Blessings and Kate's chilling and mysterious past. Unfortunately, I found the pacing in the middle quite slow, the ending predictable and I was disappointed that the mystery involving the notes that Kate finds in an old wall only had a minor role in the plot. 

Overall, I thought this was a well-written, interesting read with a unique setting. And while I cannot fully agree with the publisher's description of this book being a combination of Ken Follett and Jodi Picoult (an odd combination to say the least) it is obvious that Johnson has done extensive research on 15th century Granada. Her writing is wonderfully descriptive as she gives readers an inside view of religious persecution, cultural discrimination as well as some tense scenes and a unique love story. I encourage readers to read the author's note at the end of the book for more insight. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to DoubleDay Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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