Mirage by Somaiya Daud is now officially published and I can finally share my full review with you all! I was lucky enough to get this book as an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, so without further ado, here it is.
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.
Okay guys, this book is seriously interesting! It’s such a unique blend of fantasy and sci-fi. When I first started reading, the book seemed to take place in more of a historical high fantasy setting, but then droids and aliens were brought up and it threw me for a total head spin.
Daud created a seemingly, for lack of a better word, simple world set in a time where technology is at the level or terraforming and inhabiting other planets. Rather than technology being being the primary way of living, such as generating food, the characters still rely on traditional methods of living, such as using old methods of farming and trading to produce and procure food. This dissonance between traditional and advanced keeps the settings very interesting and complex throughout the book.
Another thing that keeps the book interesting is the culture the author has created. Amani and her fellow Andalaan believe in very traditional tales and figures. We are introduced to this from the very first chapter when Amani is reminiscing about the tesleet bird and the magical feather it left her grandfather. Other aspects of tradition are shown to be very important to Andalaans, such as Massinia the prophetess of their religion, whom drives many of Amani’s thoughts and actions.
I loved how the author created this beautiful and complex faith system to help guide Amani and create conflict in the book. Without giving away any spoilers (you know how much I hate that), there is a lot of conflict created around clashing cultures and values, on both large and small scales. This really helps drive the plot along as well as create some really compelling and emotional character development.
Amani is someone I really grew to admire throughout the course of the book. Her love of her culture and faith is something we don’t normally see in YA books, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Andalaan culture through Amani. She learned how and when to be bold and when to be vulnerable. Too often we see female leads written as either cold heroes or fragile girls, but Amani shows that it is OK to be brave and scared at the same time.
The plot is developed steadily throughout the book and really sets the foundation for book two. Is it too early to wish for book two?? I’ll admit that it took me a few chapters to really get into the story, but I think that came from learning the setting of the book and the main plot not getting started until a few chapters in. But after that point, the book is filled with amazing character development, interesting world-building, and a steadily-moving plot.
Long story short, I highly recommend reading Mirage. It is incredible that Mirage is Somaiya Daud’s debut, and if her later books are anything like this, I can see myself being a longtime fan. If you’re already a lover of fantasy/badass women/sci-fi or if you’re looking to branch into that territory, this is the book for you!
If you’ve read Mirage and want to talk about it with more specifics, feel free to send me a message on Goodreads or Instagram or leave a comment!