Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud {Book Review}

This has been a long awaited read, and now a long awaited review as I finally got to read this book, and start putting together my thoughts on it. For those wondering why I say long awaited beyond me just getting to reading it, there was a bit of a longer wait than the typical year we see in YA releases. The first book, Mirage, released in 2018, and this sequel released in 2020. Did I forget about it in the wait? No, in fact I didn’t even do my usual add to the amazon list to keep it in mind, I just somehow managed to remember this book because the first one was that good and unique. This is a sequel book review, so there will be spoilers for book one. I will try to keep spoilers for this book though from the review. 🙂

Synopsis

Court of Lions is the sequel in the Mirage duology by Somaiya Daud. Combining elements of YA Fantasy and Science Fiction, this sequel follows Amani after her connection with the rebels was found out, leaving her position as Maram’s double even more precarious than before. Add in her love for Maram’s fiancé, and very soon to be husband and the stress just keeps mounting. One light at the end of the tunnel though, is that even with the feeling of betrayal that Maram had at Amani’s connections, the two had gotten close, creating a friendship that could just maybe change their planet for the better.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

For such a short duology (even compared to duologies I’ve read in YA), this one has a way of sticking in your mind. It’s quick and easy to follow, as most YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi are even while you are taking in a new planet, a decently sized cast of characters, and an ever growing set of cultures. Yes, I do mean cultures. This is a society where it’s built on different tribes, each with their own distinct customs and backgrounds. Having mostly read the European-centric style fantasies (I am working on diversifying my reading more) this was a great change in terms of diversity, and definitely made things interesting when Amani continues her plans of rebellion even after everything that happened in book one.

I think one of the great assets of this book/series is it’s cast of characters. Our main protagonists, Amani and Maram both bring different perspectives to the events beginning to go down from book one to book two. When going into a rebellion type story we often are put in the viewpoint of the ones rebelling, not the ones caught in the middle, and certainly not both. Amani begins all of this forced into a role solely based on her appearance, her family hostages in order to make her pliable, and her entire world rocked because of it all. What I like about Amani though is that she isn’t passive during this, she’s trying to figure out survival for her and her family at the same time. When the rebels approach her, she hesitates knowing this could endanger her family, but she enters into their plans to change a planet that was already suffering before her capture. Maram, on the other hand, begins the series hating her mother’s dna since it puts her in a lower position in her father’s created society. She agrees to the concept of Amani taking her place in certain functions both for the safety of it, and the escape from having to deal with her mother’s relatives/connections. As time goes by though, this gradually changes for her until she is toeing a line, and finally learns about her own past, and embraces a culture that her father has worked to eradicate. The two together make an interesting set, since they didn’t always get along in book one, but in Court of Lions we finally see them growing closer and working together.

Among the other characters, this book really starts to flesh out the side characters we were introduced to in Mirage. The plot is thickening, the political intrigue building, and the connections Amani and Maram make are of course increasing. In a world where you are working against an empire your list of allies should be pretty extensive if you want to come out alive, and Amani starts not only working on connecting the rebels with allies, but figuring out how to get Maram to side with her finally, pulling in her cousins and the tribes who have feared rebelling again. The character though that we got to know more of in this book and witness growth from was Idris as he is let in on Amani’s current background, and has to figure out his feelings on that.

When reading duologies, I’d say characters are typically what make or break these series since it isn’t long enough in the Fantasy world to really go as in depth as Sanderson, Tolkien, or even longer YA Fantasy series. What the Mirage duology does though is bring a rich world, culture, and strong cast of characters that immerses its readers and surprises them with how short, but strong it is. Sometimes I leave duolgies wishing they had been, but a little bit longer, but these two books perfectly captured everything in them, leaving me with a great sense of completion for the story.

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