Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Information

Goodreads: Mirage
Series: Mirage #1
Source: Library
Published: 2018

Summary

Eighteen-year-old Amani imagines she will grow up on her “backwater moon” like the rest of her family, now that the Vathek empire has conquered their star system and impoverished the citizens.  But then a droid kidnaps her and brings her to the palace.  There she is expected to be a body double for the cruel princess Maram, a woman so hated that her family does not believe she can appear in public without being killed.  Amani initially agrees just to survive. But when she begins to fall in love with Maram’s betrothed and to listen to rebel whisperings, things suddenly become much more complicated.

Review

Set in a science-fiction world inspired by Morocco, Mirage is an engrossing YA fantasy peopled with vivid characters.  From the first pages when Amani is ripped from her home and forced into a life of subservience, readers will find themselves empathizing with her loss and hoping for her to find new strength.  Her story intertwines with that of a cruel princess who fears to change and prince who mourns his past but shows little desire to go chase it.  The story is centered around the ways in which these characters affect one another and grow.  Although the plot and the character development are ultimately predictable, Mirage deviates enough from standard YA conventions that it manages to feel fresh.

The characters are perhaps the book’s greatest strength as each reveals hidden depths over the course of the story and each shows an ability to change.  Readers will readily anticipate most of the character development, and yet that does not make it any less satisfying.  Mirage celebrates resilience and bravery, particularly bravery of spirit rather bravery in combat.  That each character reveals a little of such traits gives the book a hopeful feeling, one mirrored in Amani’s growing understanding that she is responsible for her own destiny.

If the book possesses a major flaw, it is that it does meaningfully utilize its sci-fi setting.  The Moroccan-inspired setting of the planet where Amani is held captive is drawn lovingly and in detail.  The planet and the way its people have been shaped by and shape it seem like characters themselves.  However, Somaiya Daud does very little with the planetary system she has set up.  It is, in fact, incredibly easy to forget that Amani hails from a moon and that planets and moons are involved in this story at all.  I do not see the point of setting a story in space if it could just as well have been set in a fantasy world on one planet.

Overall, however, Mirage is a compelling fantasy written in effortless prose (not the overwrought “lyricism” many YA authors try for).  It feels effortlessly immersive and easily captures the sympathy of readers for its cast of characters.  It is little wonder that Mirage has proven so popular or that so many readers eagerly await the sequel.

4 stars

20 thoughts on “Mirage by Somaiya Daud

  1. Kelly Brigid says:

    Beautifully written review, Krysta! So glad that you enjoyed this read as well! I agree with all the positive points you made, as well as the observation that Daud could’ve expanded the sci-fi universe. I honestly thought this book felt more like a fantasy than a sci-if.

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    • Krysta says:

      I kept forgetting it was set in a planetary system and I’d probably classify the book as fantasy if I were trying to describe it to someone. Vaguely mentioning planets and droids isn’t enough. Travelling to other moons felt like just travelling to another country. And tthe droids could have easily just been regular soldiers the way they were presented!

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I am holding out hope for that! I also think we might see more of her family, which is exciting, as they played such a huge role in her life up until she was kidnapped. I want to know what they’ve been doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. saraletourneau says:

    Another good review, Krysta. I’ve also read Nandini’s review of Mirage, as well as one over at Tor.com, so all the praise is starting to pique my interest in this book. I’m curious, though, about what you thought of Amani’s relationship with Princess Maram and her circumstances once she’s in the palace. Is she treated as a slave / servant? That was one of the things that the Tor.com review mentioned, and the reviewer thought that the author didn’t address the issue of slavery as well as she could have.

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    • Krysta says:

      I have been thinking about the Amani/Maram relationship, but I haven’t been able to clarify my thoughts on that. Maram starts off treating Amani terribly–she physically hurts her and might even kill her, if she felt like it one day. However, as Amani begins to get better at pretending to be Maram and, especially once she begins going out in public as Maram, that sort of abuse stops. So Amani is a slave in the sense that she can’t leave or talk to her family, but she is eating, dressing, living like a princess. The threat of violence is technically still there if she fails–but for most of the book it’s easy enough to forget this because Amani is often away from the palace as she pretends to be Maram and thus far from their control. So she can attend balls and go to museums and make friends with people–she’s actually living the life of a rich person.

      So…I’m not sure what Tor wanted, unless maybe some more thoughts on what Amani feels? Perhaps some reflections on how she can attend glittery balls and fall in love with the prince all she wants, but she’s still not free and it will never be enough? Admittedly, that doesn’t really happen. However, I didn’t really expect it to.

      I love YA, but YA books have a tendency across the board to subtly raise serious issues and never directly address them. That the book chooses to put the majority of its focus on the romance is kind of typical for YA.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Just rereading these comments because I’m writing my own review now, and I think I would say that the book puts its focus on the oppression of Amani’s people under Maram’s father’s regime. There’s a lot of emphasis on how the people have suffered, what they have lost, etc., and Amani is part of that because her family’s cultural practices have been banned, their poetry is outlawed, they’re forced to attend state ceremonies they don’t like, etc. It’s not as if the book isn’t thinking about oppression and racism and things like that, so maybe it would have just been overkill to also make an enormous deal about Amani’s personal role being kidnapped and trapped in the palace, especially since, as Krysta mentions, she’s actually living a fairly glitzy life she might feel “bad” about complaining when other people are starving. etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    I’m pretty sure I have to read this, just based on the amount of people with similar tastes to mine who seemed to enjoy it. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but the Morocco-inspired setting definitely grabs my interest! Thanks for the review.

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