Hello Humans! I know it’s been a hot minute since the last proper book review but – in my defence – I’ve been on a re-reads journey lately – and if you ever fancy it you can catch me on my Booktube Channel talking all things bookish!
But I am back with a book review of a book that truly I think all YA fans should hop down to the bookshop/library/place of book purchase or lending of their choosing and pick up. I’m talking of course of the sequel to Mirage – Court of Lions.
As usual with a sequel – I might end up talking a little bit about the events of book one so steer clear if you’re avoiding Mirage spoilers – things will be spoiler-free for Court of Lions.
Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?
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?
Let’s kick off with the big question – do you need to re-read Mirage to pick this up? As with most things I think you should do whatever you fancy but my personal recommendation is that you do re-read the first book. I’m not sure you’d be confused if you didn’t – but I think it’s important for understanding the arc of some characters. Personally, I think it made me less forgiving of some of the characters who may or may not have a redemption arc in book two – but that’s interesting too. I would say it’s always worth doing if you can, but you’ll survive if you decide not to. While the book does give you the gist of what happened up until now it also drops you in after a bit of a time jump which might be a tad confusing. Maybe I’m converting to the idea that one should re-read…
But on to the book itself. I had a great time reading this book – and I wasn’t quite expecting to have as much fun as I did. Obviously I re-read Mirage earlier in the year and I could remember having a fun time reading it, but some of the additions to this book (including some Sapphic representation that I might talk about later if I decide it isn’t a spoiler…) made this book all the more compelling. Mirage always felt unique in the way it combined what I in the past described as a very fantasy feeling book with a science fiction setting. When I think about it a little more I think that was my white lady bias lumping any book with a non-western setting into the fantasy category because I had read more fantasy with that kind of setting – that was bad of me. And yes this book does lean less into the science of science fiction and more into the ‘what might this intergalactic world look like’ which adds to the fantasy feel but no one is really doing magic or any of the other things one might associate with fantasy. It feels more like a…futuristic look at a world – which I can appreciate. So while I think this book will definitely appeal to people who enjoy both YA fantasy and science fiction I’m going to call myself out for labelling more of this book fantasy than I probably ought to. Lessons learned.
You definitely get to know pretty much all the characters better in this book than in book one. Amani remains excellent and I love that she developed a lot in her ability to communicate across the book. In a YA book with a heavy romance plotline that communication and honesty are so often missed and I felt like this representation of a relationship managed to feel very realistic – despite the fact that all the plot elements surrounding the relationship are unlikely to happen to anyone reading the book – though if you are someone reading this review being forced against your will to be a doppelganger for a princess, the fiancé of whom you have fallen for…well best of luck to you.
I remember in my re-read of Mirage feeling as though I was being forced to like Maram despite her actions and resolving myself to being frustrated with her redemption arc. In some ways I still think it’s tricky to write such a horrible character in book one and then do a different thing with that in the sequel – the time jump helps as well as some parts of this book which are from Maram’s perspective. I don’t want to get into those sections in too much detail because it is certainly a spoiler but suffice to say that if I didn’t think too hard about book one I came round to how I think the book wanted me to think.
I’ve already touched on the main romantic plot of this book but I did also hint at some sapphic romance as well. It’s so complicated and leans so close to spoiler territory so I think I’m just going to have to say that if you read this book let me know what your thoughts are. I ended up coming down on the side of ‘this doesn’t feel tokenistic or problematic’ which is the much nicer side of things to be on. It’s hard to bring in LGBTQIA+ representation in the latter portion of any narrative – I may have to go and re-read Mirage again to see if it feels forced into the second book. Tricky and such a personal thing you’ll just have to read and enjoy this duology and find out for yourselves.
The actual plot of the book beyond the romance was still great, I don’t want to get into it too much but it’s a great continuation from book one. I loved a lot of the moments of tension (both sexual and otherwise) that came into the story and I thought as a whole it was very well crafted. Definitely one of those times where I’m glad they went for a duology.
Overall I definitely think this is a set of book well-worth reading. Go out and grab yourself a copy you won’t be disappointed.
My rating: 4/5 stars
Court of Lions is out now!
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!