Mirage by Somiya Daud
Publication date: 28 Augut 2018
Genre: Young adult science fiction/fantasy
Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
I absolutely love those rare books that combine science fiction and fantasy elements. Naturally I was naturally thrilled when I heard about Mirage, a Moroccan-inspired YA book that does just that. If you’re looking for a gorgeous tale with lush worldbuilding, I couldn’t recommend Mirage more highly.
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.
The thing that stands out most to me about Mirage is the incredibly beautiful and intricate worldbuilding. Daud does an incredible job of painting a picture of Amani’s world in your head — the clothing, the architecture, the history, and the clashing cultures are all so wonderfully written. She manages to do all of this, as well as give us a fully-realised plot, in about 300 pages. Daud is a master of bringing a world to life and showing it to the reader without heaping information on them.
The story is told in the first person by Amani, a girl torn away from her family to serve the empire that destroyed her world. Despite all of this, Amani is an incredibly kind character. I really loved her interactions with those around her, despite who they were, and her constant struggle to stay optimistic. I am usually less interested in ‘nice’ characters, as I tend to find them a little dull, but Amani’s anger at her treatment combined with her kindness towards others made her a compelling character.
The only real weak point of the book for me was the romance — I guess I just didn’t believe in it. Idris felt like a sexy empty vessel who’s only purpose was the be the love interest. I never really got a sense of who Idris was — although I’m hoping this is something that gets tackled in later books. I wish that a little more time was spent developing the romance between the two of them, as they sort of fall in love very easily. And let’s be honest, being in love with the identical body double of your fiancee has to be a little more troublesome than the book implied.
I really enjoyed reading Mirage and am so looking forward to the next book in the series. Despite a few hiccups with the romance, it is a gorgeous and well-developed diverse book.
Want to try Mirage for yourself? You can pick it up at the following sites (affiliate links):