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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Book Review: A Court of Lions

Court of Lions
by Jane Johnson

Have you ever gone to a historic site, and felt the shift of time beneath your feet? Touched a wall and wondered who else had touched it, centuries before? Looked at a piece of art behind museum glass and wondered who had created, it, held it, owned it? And how they had come to do so?

One gets the same sense of past connection when one reads Jane Johnson’s novels. Her latest, Court of Lions, has parallel narratives – one in the here and now in present day Granada in Spain; the other in 15th century Granada, in the final days of its Nasrid dynasties.  In the present we meet Kate, a woman who has escaped a psychotic husband but left her most precious treasure behind in order to keep them both from harm; in the past we meet Blessings, who serves and loves Prince Abu Abdullah Mohammad, the boy who would become Mohammad XII, the last sultan of Granada.  Blessings, a descendant of the northern Tuarag tribes of the Sahara, lives his life to protect Momo, as he calls the Prince.  He uses his flair for disguise and spying and even his mother’s magical rituals into play, leaving wards against Momo’s enemies around the walls of the Alhambra. But Blessings’ many talents and his reckless, unrequited love for Momo are not enough to staunch the flow of Catholic fanaticism burning its way through Spain under the obsessive rulers Queen Isabella and her King Ferdinand.

In the present, Kate quits her humble job, sickened by her boss’s rampant bigotry. Visiting the celebrated gardens of the Alhambra, she finds an iota of peace in the glorious gardens of Alhambra, as well as a scrap of paper in a garden wall.  Her past begins to play cat and mouse with her, just as the scrap of paper, hidden since before the fall of Alhambra in 1492, leads her to a type of salvation she never would have believed existed.  Sometimes a slight tug on a small thread to the past can make the future shine bright with hope.

For fans Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, Jeffery Archer’s Only Time Will Tell or Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth, this is historical writing at its best – steeped in atmosphere, suspense and lush writing, Court of Lions delivers a wholly captivating story and a moving brush with history.  

To borrow: Stratford Public Library
To purchase: Indigo.ca

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