The Lions of Al-Rassan is a work of historical fantasy. It is set in a peninsula of the same world in which The Sarantine Mosaic and The Last Light of the Sun are set, and is based upon Moorish Spain. The novel concentrates on the relationships between the three peoples: the Kindath (based on the Jews), the Asharites (based on the Muslims), and the Jaddites (based on the Christians).
Like most of Kay's novels, this contains a large amount of political intrigue and religious strife. The peninsula of Al-Rassan is split between Jaddite and Asharite kingdoms.
When Asharite King Almalik betrays Ammar, Ammar joins forces with the king's heir and assassinates the father. The new king then exiles Ammar from Cartada. Elsewhere, Jehane unwittingly prevents one of her patients, a merchant, from being executed by the King. By giving the merchant shelter when the danger is revealed, she puts her life in danger. As a result, she flees Cartada for her life.