Mirage — Somaiya Daud

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

TITLE: Mirage
AUTHOR: Somaiya Daud
SERIES: Mirage, #1
RELEASES: August 28th, 2018; Flatiron Books
GENRE: Sci-fi/Fantasy
AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS: 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.

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Science fiction can be hit and miss for me, so I don’t request ARCs from the genre terribly often, but when I heard the synopsis on this one—and the fact that it has own-voice Moroccan rep, which I’d never seen in a story before—I knew it was one I couldn’t afford to miss out on, and for good reason. I don’t say this lightly in my advance reviews, but honestly, I believe Mirage is going to be one of the best, and most important, releases of 2018.

The crown of Dihya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken. But I was not a slave and I was not a spare. I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.

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First, let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: the writing in this book is fantastic. Especially with this being Somaiya Daud’s first novel, it is evident from page one that the woman was born to weave stories. I read this in a scheduled buddy read where we split it into sections, and at the end of every single day’s reading, it was a literal struggle to keep myself from continuing because I couldn’t get enough of this world, these characters, and the suspense of the unfolding plot.

Endurance was strength, to be sure, but even a rock wore away to nothing if asked to endure enough rain.

It’s not just a beautiful story, but a haunting one, as Amani’s people have been steadily erased by their Vathek conquerors; more and more of their cultural expressions are becoming outlawed, and nearly all of their political figures have been de-throned to make place for the Vathek king and his family. In YA releases, I think we frequently see these “brutal” kings that don’t actually do much of anything brutal, but that’s not the case—Somaiya Daud goes there, and the Vathek people are absolutely awful, murdering innocent citizens left and right just to prove a point.

The blood never dies. The blood never forgets.

Maram, the half-Vathek princess who Amani is taken to become a body double for, is no exception, but she’s also young and mother-less, with a father who resents her very existence. I love the portrayal of her character as this ambiguous villain, who we’re never quite certain what to make of—is she as vicious as she seems, or is she misguided and looking for her father’s approval? It doesn’t excuse her actions, but watching her develop into this incredible, complex character was a brilliant experience.

And this, poetry like this, was all we had to preserve our stories, our music, our history.

There’s also a surprising amount of love shining through the bleakness of Amani’s circumstances—not only for the man she is pretending to be betrothed to, Maram’s fiancé, Idris—but also for the forbidden poems and stories she clutches in her heart to remember not only the ways of her people, but also the beliefs of her religion. The representation of her faith was beautiful and empowering, and I never tired of the stories-within-a-story of her deity, Dihya, and the emboldened women of the past that Amani looks up to.

“You are not defined by the men in your life, no matter how powerful. You lived before them and you shall live after them.”

Altogether, Mirage is such a gorgeous tale of faith, family, love, loss, betrayal, and endurance. Amani and her loved ones are so inspirational and strong, and each of the primary players in this game are complex and evocative in their own ways. I was hooked from cover to cover, and know that it’s going to be a long, cold wait until the sequel, because I positively must know what happens next. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any fans of YA sci-fi and/or fantasy—and would like to add that the science fiction elements are soft enough that even readers who don’t reach for sci-fi would be able to thoroughly enjoy this book.

Content warnings for cultural erasure, physical abuse, imprisonment

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Flatiron for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Buddy read with Danielle, Kelly, and Kaleena! ♥♥♥

5flowers


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Just a 26-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

23 thoughts on “Mirage — Somaiya Daud

  1. Oh, I think I have an ARC of this for review! Thanks for reminding me, and I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it as well, even if the genre is usually hit or miss for you. I love SFF, so I’m optimistic that this will work for me too!

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  2. Amazing review Destiny! I’m glad that you enjoy this book more than I did! This book is just now work out for me, it’s still an okay read though!

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  3. Glad to see that you gave this 5 stars! I’d read mixed things about it and wasn’t approved for an ARC (lol) so I wasn’t sure whether to pick it up or not!

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      1. Yeahhh they only had enough copies for people participating in the blog tour…and I didn’t want to participate lol so it’s partially my fault! And ahhh that’s so good 🙂 I might just grab it from the library!

        Liked by 1 person

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