Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Published by: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Count: 320
In a world 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 home.
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.
“You do not kneel or bend, I told myself. To anyone. You continue.”
I never anticipated I needed a book in my life until I started reading Mirage. This slow-burning Moroccan-inspired fantasy is the breath I’ve been waiting for. And I can’t imagine why I waited so long to experience this marvel. How can I possibly explain my love for Somaiya’s debut? I don’t know if I can convey my love for it. I want to pass it to children who haven’t found a book they can relate to, can’t see themselves in, but want to be proud of reading.
You know I’m traversing the science fiction genre. For years, I haven’t given it credit. But Somaiya is why I’m thrilled to explore the genre further. She takes YA court intrigue, feminism, and a tantalizing love story and transforms these elements into a uniquely written space opera.
She also reveals these multi-dimensional characters who fight for life, survival, and acceptance and somehow makes you sympathize over others you never thought you’d understand. Amani, an eighteen-year-old Andalaan aspiring poet, soon discovers she’s a mere image of Maram, the Vathek princess, whose father colonized Amani’s peaceful moon. Whisked away from her family, she must now learn how to survive in a world where one mistake will get her killed.
As the story progresses, you get a sense of who Amani truly is. She’s more than just a dreamer. Even throughout her naivety, she thrives and transforms into her own character. You don’t know how much I loved reading her development. She soon uses her influence and tries to bond with Maram, who has another side that readers may not expect. And throughout this growth, she somehow finds love with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. At times, I was saddened by their unexpected love story, their past, and their heartache.
I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never been this surprised by a debut novel. Somaiya transports you to a bleak, colonized backdrop rich with Moroccan culture. She taught me about a civilization I admired from afar, but I’m proud to know a piece of it now. This character-driven treasure is abundant in culture, beautiful storytelling, and opulent worldbuilding. I hoped for a bit more action, but that issue doesn’t take away from the storyline.
I didn’t want to stop reading this novel. It dominated my every thought when I cracked open the book. If this review hasn’t convinced you to take a risk on Mirage, I don’t know what else will. But don’t wait any longer than I did. It deserves to be heard. It deserves its own voice. And you deserve this treat.
“You are not defined by the men in your life, no matter how powerful. You lived before them and you shall live after them.”