Title: Mirage (Mirage #1)
Author: Somaiya Daud
Genre: Young adult sci-fi fantasy
Published: By Flatiron Books on August 28th, 2018
ISBN13: 9781250126429 (US Hardcover edition)
Note: I received a free digital ARC of the book for promotional purposes as part of a blog tour and this in no way influences my opinion
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.
I was very excited to see that this book is Moroccan-inspired as I love reading diverse books. There was a bit of a hype around the book as many reviewers I know were part of two different blog tours and I had only heard rave reviews before I picked it up, so I had high expectations.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book. There are enough and many books where the poor girl gets dragged into the life of royals but this one definitely stood out for me. I also liked that Amani enjoyed poetry, which had a significant influence on the story as well as her personality. My favourite, however, was Maram. She gets an amazing character arc and her sass was a refreshing compliment to Amani’s softness. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the romance because it was quite predictable although it adds to the tension.
Since this was the first book in a series, the plot was a bit slow while the author introduced the world. The world-building completely blew me away with how complex and well-constructed it was. The adapted aspects of Moroccan culture was an integral part of the story, which was amazing to read about in a sci-fi setting. There were a lot of political intricacies and I really liked how the dynamic between the conquerors and the conquered was portrayed. The writing style is lush and descriptive, but sometimes I found it a bit too much, which slowed down the pace and pulled me out of the story. Overall, this was a very strong debut and I cannot wait for the sequel to come out!
I think that fans of Star Wars will really enjoy this book. It reads a bit like the first prequel film but from Padme’s point of view if she was an unwilling slave but without lightsabres or death stars. Some light instrumental Moroccan music would go really well with this or quieter tracks from the background music of sci-fi movies. For the food, take this opportunity to indulge in some authentic Moroccan fare that is alluded to throughout the book or just any home-cooked meal with bread and a side dish of your choice.
Have you read this book or plan to? What book would you recommend that has a blend of sci-fi as well as fantasy? Let me know in the comments section below.