3 reasons Court of Lions is a worthy successor to Somaiya Daud’s Mirage

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud. Image courtesy Macmillan Publishers
Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud. Image courtesy Macmillan Publishers /

Somaiya Daud’s Court of Lions beautifully wraps up the story begun in Mirage – with a dash of rebellion and queer romance on top.

Somaiya Daud’s first novel, Mirage, mixed science fiction and fantasy with a dash of real-life Moroccan culture to create a story that felt like a breath of fresh air in the world of YA fantasy. Its sequel, Court of Lions takes things to the next level, raising the stakes to encompass the future of an entire people.

In Mirage, Amani found herself a prisoner of the seemingly cruel Vath princess Maram, forced to serve as an unwilling body double for the heir of the invading army that conquered her planet, Andala. Yet, as she spends more time with the princess, who has roots among her people and the potential to become a good queen, Amani spearheads a rebellion with the potential to change all their lives.

Court of Lions picks up shortly after the events of Mirage. Maram has discovered Amani’s connection to the rebels and no longer trusts her. Things seem bleaker than ever before. But are they? Amani is still desperate to fight for her people, and Maram isn’t entirely closed off to the possibility of change. Nothing is impossible.

Here are three reasons that Court of Lions is a worthy follow-up to MIrage – and why you should give both the books in this series a shot.

A powerful story of women claiming their futures

Unlike Mirage, Court of Lions occasionally features interludes from Maram’s perspective, allowing us to get to know her on her own terms – and not just as Amani sees her.  While this can initially feel like something of a jarring shift from the first book, the switch ultimately works because this isn’t just Amani’s story any longer. It’s the story of Andala and its future, in which Maram will play a powerful and necessary part. Therefore, if Amani is willing to back her for the throne, we should be too – but that can’t happen until we actually get to know her in her own right.

That’s not to say that Amani herself is erased from the story. She’s definitely not. In fact, she gets to come more fully into her own here – stepping out of the shadow of Maram’s power – and Maram herself, occasionally – to direct and orchestrate events that will shape the future of her homeland. Her bravery and willingness to fight for her people, despite the risk to herself and her own family, remains one  of the best things about her character, and she remains an immensely likeable heroine who is easy to root for.

An unexpected queer romance

Much of Mirage focused on Amani’s growing connection and eventual romance with Idris, the man pledged in marriage to Maram. Their relationship is a continued highlight of this book, as the pair try to deal with loving one another even when one of them is married to someone else, and the rest of the world isn’t even allowed to know the other exists.

But in introducing a POV for Maram, Court of Lion also introduces a romance for her, with a powerful female falcon trainer who sees and respects her for herself, rather than her future crown. Watching Maram’s harsh walls come down as she questions both her sexuality and her ability to love someone else provides us with the much-needed look at her interior life that was absent in Mirage, and helps us understand why Amani is so convinced she can be the queen their people deserve. Plus, the fact that Maram’s same-sex romance is treated with every bit the same delicacy and care that Amani’s heterosexual love story is is a wonderful thing to see.

A fascinating mix of science fiction and fantasy

Court of Lions continues building on one of the best things about Mirage, the ease with which it blends science fiction and fantasy tropes to create a world that feels entirely new. Though Andala is a planet that has an almost mystical origin story and a group of inhabitants who track their genealogy back to a magical protector bird, it’s also a spacefaring kingdom full of droids and robots that’s actually been conquered by another race.

There are blasters, holopads, spaceships, and all manner of fancy technology, but the setting nevertheless feels like a familiar high fantasy, with lush settings, a thoughtful approach spirituality, and rich interior mythology. As a reader, I’m not generally one who is drawn to much sci-fi in my fantasy, but the blend of the two feels pitch-perfect here and helps the novel stand out in a publishing world that’s certainly full to bursting with princesses and rebels trying to fight for a throne.

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Court of Lions is available now. Will you be adding it to your TBR pile this month?