Blog Tour and Review: Court of Lions by Jane Johnson. Head of Zeus. Publication Date 6 July 2017

I am pleased to participate in this blog tour for COURT OF LIONS.

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.

COURT OF LIONS brings one of the great turning-points in 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.

JANE JOHNSON is a British novelist and publisher. She is the UK editor for George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Dean Koontz and was for many years publisher of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Married to a Berber chef she met while researching The Tenth Gift, she lives in Cornwall and Morocco.

COURT OF LIONS is a mesmerizing book, skillfully weaving together two stories seven centuries apart. The tale unfolds in tantalizing fashion, with present-day events alternating with flashbacks of the current-day story even as we encounter episodes from a totally different story of Moorish Spain, seven centuries earlier.

This work is a tour de force of writing skill, with the two disparate stories intertwining in a complex tapestry. At first the connection between the two threads is not clear. But soon we experience small ahas! of recognition as we perceive links in the saga when passing items and events start to mesh together and gain meaning.

My knowledge of the storied past of Spain is not as good as it should be. I found myself having to revise my historical perspective. In grade school we learned about Christopher Columbus, and I can recall positive views for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand for their support of Columbus’ epic journey of discovery.

What I did not put together with that schooldays view of Columbus’ achievement is its proximity to the dreadful events of the Spanish Inquisition. So, we get here a story that is by turn breathtakingly beautiful and shockingly savage. Some of this is really hard to read. Religious persecution is not pretty. And it seems we have learned little from these lessons of the past. We have so much to be grateful for, take so much for granted, and too often forget the price that has been paid for our progress.

Jane Johnson has provided a beautiful and terrible tale, exquisitely told.

My thanks to Suzanne Sangster of Head of Zeus Books for providing an advance copy to read and review.

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