“A cage is a cage even if gilded. Even if it softens my hands.”
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer who long for adventure, and to 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.
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review!
I firmly believe that there is a difference between a book and a story. A book is merely a collection of words, sentences, and paragraphs that convey meaning. It isn’t necessary for a book to hold our attention, rattle our emotions, touch our hearts, or impress us with its poise. A proper story, however, should encompass all of these and more. Mirage is a story. One of the best I have read all year, and a true gem in the Young Adult literary world. Every element of this story is adeptly composed, from the smallest character to the deepest message. The magic system is subtle, but intriguing, and the gorgeous writing is so alive that I can grasp it in my hands. Truly a phenomenal story in every respect.
Is it possible for a cast of characters to be this intriguing? Amani is an enticing lead, and what I admired most about her, is her desire to protect and remember the stolen bits of culture and traditions that the Vathek so eagerly wish to erase from her life. Her love of poetry and the words left behind by those who came before, help push her through the forces that pursue her. This love of her culture, religion, family, and faith is so empowering and incredible to read about. My favorite character in the story is surprisingly the enigmatic villain, Maram – the half-Vathek princess. She is vicious and cruel, but the reasons for why she hides behind this wall is fascinating, and I adored watching her develop throughout the story. Such a complex and memorable character!
The world is wonderfully intricate and unforgiving. Daud crafts a world that I would hate to live in. It’s beautiful without a doubt, but also horrifying. The brutality of the Vathek empire is depicted with such great detail, that it’s difficult to not feel as though you are thrust into this universe. I love the sci-fi world, and the politics that come to play. Daud’s writing is a work of art, and the stunning flow of her words alone, are enough to make me love this story. I never once was bored from the writing, and was on the edge of my seat for the entire duration of the read. The beautiful themes of love and loss, friendship and solitude, kindness in despair are all so incredibly illustrated by Daud’s brilliant writing.
I cannot comprehend how this story is Somaiya Daud’s debut novel. The characters, plot, writing, world building, themes, and everything else are flawless, and show a level of pure expertise. She knows what she’s doing, and I can’t wait to taste everything else she brings to the plate in the sequel. If you want a lovely character-driven story with exceptional writing and a sophisticated plot, pick this one up the second it hits shelves!