“In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.
But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.
As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I can’t quite remember how I found out about Mirage by Somaiya Daud, but once I had read the synopsis I was hooked. Then I saw the cover, and I was even more hooked! I’m definitely adding this to my list of favorite book covers.
This was straight up one of the coolest books I have read in a long time. It deals with family dynamics as well as royal families, romance, colonization, xenophobia, prejudice and coming-of-age. While the descriptive writing was at times a bit much for me, the world created within this story is fantastic.
The Kushalia and Vath cultures are extremely well developed, from the language, to the poetry to the clothing, history, mythology, you name it. Reading about both of these cultures and the histories of their clashing was fascinating. Amani is smart and brave, a character you will immediately sympathize with and root for during the entire book. The princess, Maram starts out as the most awful person yet has significant character development, as does her fiancé, Idris. As Amani becomes more and more immersed in Maram’s inner world, she discovered nothing is as black and white as it seems from the outside.
Mirage is technically science fiction/fantasy but there were quite a few times while reading that I completely forgot this until there was mention of droids or floating screens, or travel between moons/planets. It could easily have been set in the past, or in the recent present, but the fact that it is set in an entirely different galaxy just added to the cool factor for me.
Overall, this diverse story was extremely compelling, fast-paced and there wasn’t a moment of boredom. I am definitely planning to read subsequent books in this series, and highly recommend this debut to everyone.