Mirage by Somaiya Daud – REVIEW
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, and of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventures, and travel beyond her isolated moon.
But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped 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 to appear in public, 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 and 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.
“But I was not a slave and I was not a spare. I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.”
I was thrilled to receive a proof of Mirage from Hodderscape in exchange for an honest review as I’d seen it mentioned on Twitter for quite a while and I was intrigued to read it. I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s a YA sci-fi which surprised me as I hadn’t heard it was set in space. Most of the action takes place on the planet Andala but we also visit inhabited moons such as Cadiz. The story explores the invasion and occupation of Andala and the huge ramifications this had on the indigenous tribes and their culture. It was done in a thought-provoking and nuanced manner that addressed issues such as erasure, appropriation and colonialism.
“Everyone in the Ziyaana will tell you to resign yourself to being crushed … Do not. Even your happiness is rebellion.”
The main character is eighteen-year-old Amani, part of the Kushaila tribe that is now subjugated by the Vathek. By the end of the book, I felt that I knew Amani so well as she seemed to jump off the page. Her love of poetry and literature was easy to identify with, and her sibling bond with Aziz and, especially Husnain, was perfectly described. Princess Maram was a very interesting character and I would love the next book to be written from her point of view. Maram is a living symbol of the tensions between the colonisers and the colonised due to her half-Vathek half-Kushaila heritage. After her actions at the beginning of the story, it’s incredible that the author can inspire the reader to have any sympathy for her. Idris ibn Salih was a wonderful love interest as the romance never overshadowed Amani’s storyline yet their interactions were always engaging.
“When I was with him it seemed that the entire galaxy was open to possibility, that we could do anything, achieve anything, if only we tried.”
As the brewing rebellion draw Amani into their web, the action slowly builds due to political machinations and power struggles, laying the groundwork for the sequel (which I can’t wait to read by the way!). The aspect I loved most about this story was the richly descriptive language that evoked a stunning Moroccan-inspired setting seeping with a beautiful and complex cultural heritage. The prose was so lyrical that I couldn’t put the book down and finished it in a few hours. Mirage is released in a couple of weeks and I would definitely recommend buying or borrowing it as soon as you can.
N.B. It also sounds like the book choice for one book box next month so if you’re looking for a signed copy it might be worth buying – I won’t say which box so I don’t spoil it for anyone.