Mirage by Somaiya Daud

“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 taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! I’m (finally) back with another review! Sorry for the small hiatus, I went on vacation and got way less reading than I expected done, and had no time to actually write any reviews!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

“The crown of Dihya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken. But I was not a slave and I was not a spare.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Amani

I was approved for this ARC months ago, and I hate that I only just now got to it! It beat all of my expectations, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the series.

From the beginning, Mirage hooked me. Something about Amani, our main character, felt so genuine and real, yet she was still an incredibly kind and likable person. She’s the type of main character I haven’t seen in a while, as most YA Fantasy narrators seem to all be “stubborn” and “strong” lately, so it was really refreshing to read something new. Additionally, Amani was quite a layered character. She had a heart of gold that truly cared about those hurting around her, regardless of their race, but she was also still a strong character, making decisions for herself and her own happiness. At the same time, she was still touched by the influence of power, and this led to some great inner monologue as Amani struggled between the identity of her past and the girl she was forced to become.

Not only does Mirage have a fantastic main character, the supporting cast is extremely fleshed out as well. The love interest is more than just his looks/love for the main character, but is also seen grieving for his family, and also struggling between his childhood identity and the one first upon him by the conquerors and his need to stay alive. (Also, I must say that this romance feels really well done, as it isn’t the main focus of the novel/does not define either of the characters, but rather adds and builds upon the characters and story that is already there). Additionally, we also have the cruel princess that Amani is a body double for, and while at first she gives off the impression of your standard evil princess, she ends up being so much more. She faces an internal struggle just like everyone else, and reading that was one of my favorite parts of the book.

All of this leads to a book that is rather character driven. The effects of colonialism in this world is explored through the personal effects on the characters, as well as the overarching effects on the native culture of the planet. It gives a new perspective on this topic, compared to recent YA Fantasy novels that deal with this topic, as it aims to show us the pain of the conquered through less overtly violent means. While there is still action and violence, it is mainly kept in the beginning of the tale, and the story seems to move towards a different way of losing yourself in a world conquered.

I also really loved the world and culture built into this book. While we don’t learn a lot at all about the conquerors, the Vath, we do learn a lot about Amani’s own culture and religion. Amani specifically is an extremely religious character, and the stories and poetry built into her culture and religion is a large driving force in the personal narrative of Amani, and even some of the other stories taking place in the book. It adds a whole other layer to Mirage, and works to fully immerse you in both the world and the story, since it is so well intertwined.

The only reason I dropped my rating a little was due to certain aspects of the plot and the pacing of the story. The plot itself was wonderful and interesting, but just occurred rather passively. Most of the events in the story are enacted by others around Amani, rather than herself, and she mainly seems to be reacting towards everything and following the actions and plans of others. However, this is the most realistic option, as Amani is in no position to be making her own plans and choices for most the book. My other issue was pacing. In terms of that, this book felt almost like a flat line. It was an incredible read nonetheless, but there weren’t really moments of surprise or increased intensity, and even the ending had me reading at the same speed and pace as the beginning of the book.

All in all, I absolutely loved this debut, and am so lucky to have gotten the chance to read it early! I highly recommend this novel to those that have found some YA Fantasy novels falling short lately, and want to be reminded what makes the genre so great.