Author: Somaiya Daud
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Publication Date: August 28th 2018
Rating: 🌟 🌟
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.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review!
I did not understand the hype for this book. At all. There were so many elements that initially drew me in to the story and there were things that I actually liked but, ultimately, the whole thing just fell flat with its conclusion.
As a character-driven sci-fi/fantasy novel, Mirage felt more like an extremely long introduction to the Morrocan-inspired world that Somaiya Daud had created, rather than the first book in a trilogy. There was a lot of complex world-building that touched on many important themes such as colonialism, but the plot itself was severely lacking. Or, at least, I thought it was misleading and just didn’t deliver on what it was promising.
The book is narrated in first-person from the perspective of Amani, who is kidnapped from her moon and taken to the planet Andala where she discovers she is the body-double of the half-Vathek princess Maram. The relationship dynamic between these two female characters was fascinating, and I really enjoyed seeing Maram’s character development throughout the course of the novel. Though she was cruel and brutal towards Amani to begin with, the author manages to write about Maram in a way that makes the reader eventually care. I also enjoyed the romance element, despite how obvious it seemed, and found Idris’ backstory to be the most compelling.
My issues with the book lie largely with its pacing. Despite how quickly time passes with each chapter, the progression of the plot was incredibly slow and it just didn’t feel like a lot was happening. Within the first seven chapters, Amani is taken from Cadiz and her training to master the mannerisms of princess Maram is complete. This meant that Amani was finally well-equipped to serve as Maram’s body-double in situations where there was a threat to the princess’ life. Except, there never seemed to be any danger to any of their lives. And on the rare occasion that a threat did present itself, the scene was so rushed to the point where I couldn’t believe that was the climax of the novel and the reason I had continued reading.
Overall, I finished the novel with a feeling extreme disappointment, which was a shame because it genuinely was one of my most anticipated reads. I know a lot of people loved this, so maybe sci-fi fantasies just aren’t my thing or it has something to do with the fact that I read it while I was in a reading slump. Regardless, I just don’t think I’m interested enough to read the upcoming sequel.