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.
This is the first novel for author Somaiya Daud, and for a first book it certainly made an impact. Oftentimes a “first” novel can come across as rushed and underdeveloped, this was not the case with Mirage. It was one of the best breakthrough novels I’ve read in a while and I will definitely read the rest of the series.
Amani is a great female lead, shes a strong willed character and sticks to her beliefs, even when it puts herself in danger. The relationship between Amani and Maram was written perfectly, without the usual “jealous woman” trope. Amani knows exactly what is expected of her, and even after being kidnapped simply because she looks like Maram, is never jealous of her wealth or status but instead feels pity towards Maren for her situation.
Maran herself is a girl who has no idea where she belongs, her Vathek family hate her for being a half-breed and she shuns her Andalaan family for reminding her too much of her fathers cruelty and mothers death. She makes for a totally believable and relatable anti-hero that, though she is horrible to Amani at the start of the novel, you grow to almost like and definitely feel sorry for.
I liked the relationship between Amani and Idris. Not your typical star crossed lovers and it was written to perfection. Nothing remotely romantic happening until Amani’s true identity is revealed. Ill admit to being wary of his intentions at first, but after Amani is “outed” and their relationship turns deeper he definitely grew on me, and their relationship is one I would love to develop over the later novels.
The plot itself was riviting, though not many twists and turns, the relationships and general progression kept me so engrossed that I finished the novel in a matter of hours unable to put it down. I wouldn’t necessarily call the ending a cliffhanger, but it certainly left me wanting more and certain to pre-order the next novel as soon as its available. This is an easy 5/5 for me. One of the best first in a series I’ve read in a while and I would pick up anything else Somaiya Daud wrote based on this book alone.