Series: Mirage #1
Published by Hodder and Stoughton on August 28, 2018
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Mirage is a Moroccan inspired fantasy/sci-fi book about a village girl named Amani who gets kidnapped by the Vathek empire. She is taken to be the body double and protector of the hated half-Vathek princess Maram, whom she looks identical to. Between missing her family and plotting her escape, Amani makes unexpected friendships in the palace and a romance starts to bloom. When a rebellion plotting to overthrow the Vathek empire asks Amani for help she must decide where her loyalties lie, all the while playing the cruel princess to perfection or risk losing her life.
What a stellar debut! Mirage really took me by surprise and went directions I never expected it to. While it primarily reads like a fantasy it has some really great sci-fi integrations like intergalactic travel and laws, droids and exploration of different planets. While there is some action that takes place, this book is dominated by it’s electric characters and intriguing court politics.
Happiness is rebellion.
The heroine, Amani, is such a level-headed and lovable character. She perseveres through every obstacle thrown her way and finds small ways to be happy within the confines of the palace. She knows how to weigh situations and doesn’t make any impulsive decisions, unless absolutely necessary which I really appreciated. One way she manages to remain hopeful is through her religion, which I found really refreshing. Maram, the cold hearted half-Vathek princess, is probably the most complex character. I was prepared to hate her to the core, and at the beginning I certainly did. However, Somaiya Daud gives her a story arc much more than that of a simple villain who is cruel for the sake of it. Maram has her reasons for being the way she is and as those are explored my feelings towards her grew from hatred to pity. Her intricate relationship with Amani was probably my favourite part of the book!
The growing romance between Amani and Idris, Maram’s fiancé, was really sweet. They both felt alone and isolated in the palace and bonded over their mutual culture and dislike for the Vathek regime. I love that the romance did not overshadow other elements of the book, but rather complimented them. I also found it really amazing how Amani prioritised herself and her family before Idris, because far too often in YA, heroines are quick to throw their whole life away for a guy they met 2 days ago. Thank god that wasn’t the case here.
You are not defined by the men in your life, no matter how powerful. You lived before them and you shall live after them.
A prominent element of the novel was the exploration of culture, traditions, religion and their erasure by the oppressive Vathek empire. Since the Vathek invasion and subsequent colonisation they have been swift to eradicate all other tribe traditions and beliefs. We really see what toll that takes on Amani once she enters the palace because her culture is part of her identity and without it she feels lost. Somaiya Daud really delves deep into the importance of culture and community and its harmlessness in comparison to the actual harm the power-hungry and selfish Vathek pose to the population.
The only weakness I found was the conveying of information to the reader. Mirage contains a lot of history; two civil wars, an invasion and occupation and subsequent tension and rebellion. There are a lot of names, tribes and planets to memorise it sometimes got overwhelming. The way we are told all this is through Maram quizzing Amani, whereby she just recites and word vomits all the information. I understand it was for efficiency purposes but it could have been done a bit better. However this is a minor annoyance and did not really take away from my enjoyment of the book.
The blood never dies. The blood never forgets.
All in all, an extremely solid debut. I’ll be looking forward to the sequel, especially after that ending!
Have you heard of Mirage before this review? What are your thoughts? Will you be picking Mirage up or adding it to your TBR? Let’s chat in the comments ♥