Written by Somaiya Daud
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: 28th August 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
“Mirage is full of characters who feel like they existed long before the story began, and a rich world that is as beautiful as it is cruel. Somaiya Daud is a rare talent. A smart, romantic, exciting debut.” ―Veronica Roth, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Divergent and Carve the Mark
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.
There were moments when I glimpsed the world as it was before the occupation of the Vath. When my mother or father spoke without thinking, or a village aunt said when I was young, or a man sang an old song I’d never heard before. The bones of our old ways of life were there, barely traceable, and I wanted them back. I wanted all of us to remember what we’d been, how strong we were. And endurance was strength, to be sure, but even a rock wore away to nothing if asked to endure enough rain. I could want until I was dead and nothing would come to pass. Wanting never solved anything.
First impressions: Isn’t the cover gorgeous? I was really excited to read this because of the summary – intrigue, invaders, sci-fi inspired by middle eastern stories – all sounds amazing!
The story starts with Amani as she prepares to go through a ritual through which girls in her tradition become adults and receive a tattoo on their faces expressing their family’s hopes and dreams for their future. Part way through the celebration, Vathek soldiers arrive and Amani is kidnapped. When she wakes up, she meets the half-Vathek princess Maram, hated by both sides and discovers that she is to be her body double.
I connected with Amani straight away – she is a sympathetic, yet realistic character, a girl with her head stuck in the clouds even as she understands what she has to do with her feet on the ground. She handles herself with control and dignity, even when she is treated with disdain, attempting to follow the example of a heroine of legend, Massinia, and take control of her destiny.
One character I did not expect to like, but grew to love, was Maram herself. At first she seems like the typical spoiled princess, but her character grows and changes the most over the course of the book, as Amani challenges her preconceptions and allows her the opportunity to be a girl rather than a symbol or a politician.
It is hard for me to express everything I loved about this book without spoiling the story, but, needless to say I was completely hooked and will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series!
It was Maram’s voice that came out of me, but my sentiment had shaped the speech. I’d avoided mention of the Vath and hoped that in hearing Maram, in seeing her— me— wearing the old Andalaan seal, those who witnessed the consecration of the ground would leave with hope. Would think of our endurance and our survival. More than that, I hoped that Maram would think back on the words she’d helped me craft, and envision a world without the cruelties of her father’s reign. It was a small hope, I thought, looking out over the crowd . But an important one— if Maram could be the ruler that her father had failed to be, that her mother had wanted to be, then there was hope for us— for all of us. Wasn’t there? I had to believe it.
My family would always be in danger now. Because I had dared to dream of a world without the Vath. Because I’d dared to put that dream into action. And the danger would never fade.
What I liked: Amani’s character, Maram’s character growth, the way the romance developed naturally and slowly, it was refreshing to read about a culture that wasn’t based around Europe, the importance of storytelling and poetry to the characters, the familial relationships.
Even better if: In amny ways the world-building was very rich, with the legends and poetry. Yet, at times I found the world-building about the invading empire a bit confusing – I would have benefitted from a bit more of an explanation for the motives behind the Vathek invasion. I am guessing we will see more of the ‘science’ in the science-fiction in the next book.
How you could use it in your classroom: Any lovers of fantasy or sci-fi will also enjoy this! This could also be used to spark discussion about rites of passage to adulthood (I was fascinated by the facial tattoos), as well as digging into the politics of being an invader / invaded country and how to rule fairly.
(Thank you to Flatiron Books and The Fantastic Flying Book Club Tours for my e-ARC)
About the Author:
Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment. Mirage is her debut, and is due from Flatiron Books in 8/28/2018.
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