Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Posted November 11, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Court of Lions

Court of Lions

by Somaiya Daud

Series: Mirage #2
Publisher: Flatiron Books on August 4, 2020
Genre: LGBTQIAP+, Romance, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

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?

 

In the intervening years between Mirage and Court of Lions, I forgot what an interesting world Somaiya Daud has built.  This is a science-fiction novel that has the distinct feel of fantasy… you almost forget it’s sci-fi until a droid or spaceship shows up.  It’s been a while since I read Mirage – a rare book that I read shortly after its release – and so getting back to so many of the interesting, creative elements of this story were interesting. This is a duology full of political intrigue and our protagonist is a body-double for royalty (something I’ve never seen before).  There’s romance and mythology and just a little bit of a lot of really good things.

I also think that’s its greatest weakness.  There’s just a little of a lot of good stuff.  Mirage and Court of Lions are a confirmed duology, so the tastes we were getting in Court of Lions will forever just be that – tastes.  For example, there was a moment where Maram/Amani was speaking with the other young leaders of the planet and building relationships and I just loved that coalition because it reminded me of the real world and how the younger generations are rising up to do the right thing and yes.  Even though there were direct results to the plot from that meeting, it was just… so minor compared to what I felt it should be.  Stuff like that – there are many really intriguing things woven into the story, but they don’t play out in a satisfying way.

In my review of Mirage, I ended focusing on Maram.  I really liked Maram’s growth in the first book and thought she had the makings of something fantastic.  When I started reading Court of Lions and stumbled into a chapter from Maram’s POV, I was thrilled.  Until I wasn’t.  This character I remembered as being cold but resolute felt like a completely different person in this book.  And, granted, there’s always a difference between a public and private face… but this is one of those situations where I was looking for a strong character and simply didn’t get her for most of the book.  If anything, I felt we’d backtracked some of her character growth from book one, and that was a bummer.  None of these things are wrong, but as I’ve already said, they made my reading somewhat unsatisfying.

Despite all this, I didn’t dislike Court of Lions.  I think it was interesting, and when I sat down to read it, I thought it read easily.  I like Somaiya Daud’s writing technique – I think she balances description and readability really well.  I would definitely read more of her books, so please don’t let any of my criticism of Court of Lions deter you.  This was an interesting story, but very face-paced where a longer, more drawn out story may have been more satisfying.  It was like the camera was out of focus and we were in scenes that were less interesting than where we could have been and so many of the characters had deteriorated into fear that I don’t remember being present in the first book.  There’s nothing technically wrong with this book, I simply wanted more from it.  That’s all!

Oh!  I should mention that the romance develops in more-or-less the way you would expect here, but there’s a new f/f relationship.  While I like to see it, it felt a little forced to me – again, a victim of too quick a progression in too little time, and a character I didn’t feel was well-developed.  Still, it’s good to see the variety and I’m glad it happened!

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★
Plot: ★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★

3 Star Rating

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Court of Lions Stays on the Shelf

I’m keeping this one because I didn’t haven specific strong feelings against it, and because it’s part of a duology where I very much enjoyed the first book. I’d be interested to see if a series reread maintains its place in my collection, but for now I’d like to support this author and keep her books on my shelf.

Also, on a completely aesthetic note, don’t you just love the cover?  I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time staring at it trying to decide which one is Maram and which is Amani.  I can’t decide if the illustrator would go for the obvious dress, or it’s a trick.

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What was the last book you read that you liked well enough, but you finished feeling unsatisfied?  This is a huge pet peeve of mine as a reviewer – where I can’t rightfully criticism the book, but it left unfulfilled.  I’d love to commiserate together, so let me know your experiences in the comments!

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