Series: Mirage #1
Published: Aug. 28, 2018
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.
Mirage is a beautifully written YA novel that will appeal to readers looking for a story about strength in the face of adversity and the importance of one’s heritage. From the first pages, I was drawn in by the beautiful prose and the complex characterizations, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.
Amani starts the book reasonably frightened by the powerful people who watch over her after she is kidnapped to act as the hated princess’s secret body double, but her time observing the intrigue and ruthlessness at the court quickly turn her into a quick-witted, sharp-tongued young woman whom readers will want to see succeed. Her growth over the course of the story is one of the best things to watch. And many of the other characters grow with her, including Maram herself. The plot as Amani navigates her new role and considers how she can use it to benefit her people, who have been oppressed under Maram’s father, is interesting, but Mirage is refreshingly driven more by character growth than by flashy action sequences or cliffhanging plot points.
There were only two things I struggled with. First, I agree with Krysta that the science fiction setting of the novel was not well-developed. The book reads like high fantasy, except it takes place on some fictional planets and moons, and there’s the occasional mention of a servant droid or someone carrying a phaser. These elements were in no way integral to the plot, and I was surprised and jarred out of the story every time the word “droid” came up because I’d completely forgotten the book was set in space, which is a big problem.
Second, because Amani almost immediately needs to begin impersonating Princess Maram, I didn’t feel as if I got to know Amani as an actual person until a decent way into the book; seeing more scenes with her acting as herself at the beginning of the story could have been helpful. It also didn’t help that Amani does not really immediately know how to act like Maram, so she opts for silence in a large percentage of interactions, which means she’s not doing much as herself or as Maram for a while. She does this even with Maram’s fiance because apparently no one thought to tell the secret body double how Maram even feels about the guy so she knows how to act around him. Awkward.
However, these are minor details in the grand scheme of things, and I highly recommend Mirage to fans of YA fantasy (yes, fantasy; if you’re looking for hardcore sci-fi, this just isn’t it). It feels fresh, but it also has depth to the characters and depicted cultures that is reminiscent of fantasy classics.