Monday, August 20, 2018

ARC Review: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Title: Mirage (Mirage #1)
Author: Somaiya Daud
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 320
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//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//
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’ fiancĂ©, 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 caught my eye with its beautiful cover and, I'll be honest, the hype got me too. I was SO excited to have the chance to read this early and I dived in as soon as I could.

The heroine of this story is Amani, a young girl who is kidnapped from her home because she looks identical to the Princess of the empire. She learns that she is to become the princess's body double and will have to fill in for her in public, even around people as intimate as her fiance and grandmother. I really loved Amani! She was a fantastic MC who was equal parts vulnerable in a precarious situation, but also incredibly strong. For me, this can be a hard balance to strike. A huge pet peeve of mine is a lead who is so ridiculously over the top in her attempts to be strong woman that she repeatedly makes dumb choices. This character is written perfectly. All of her choices were relatable and I sympathized as she tried to find a way to survive and help her people at the same time.

Speaking of surviving, the villain, Princess Maram, is fantastic! She's the terrifying, cruel, complex character I want in a book. I was always on edge when she was around, never knowing what kind of mood she'd be in. Of course, I also really loved Idris, the princess's fiance, who Amani has to fool. He was such a great character and love interest. I'll admit it was a little inst-a-lovey, but I'm willing to forgive it because their relationship was so great! Really, all of the characters were just fantastic.

I also really loved the world building and the culture represented in this book. If you weren't aware, this is an own-voices Moroccan story and it is amazing! The way the world was created so creative and unique! It was really an interesting blend of real-world Moroccan culture, fantasy, and science fiction. The writing was also magical and lyrical, but not in a way that made it difficult to read.

So if I loved so much about it, why isn't this a five star read? Well, my real issue is with the plot. So much of the story is focused on the relationships between the characters and the descriptions of the world that not much time is left to set up the actual storyline. Simply put, there isn't much action here. Mirage is a lot of talking and walking and spending time together, which I didn't hate because I enjoyed the character and world so much! However, I desperately wanted something, anything to happen. Eventually it did, but for me it took way too long to get to the action.

Thankfully, the ending of this book didn't end on a huge cliffhanger, although there's certainly room for a second book. While Mirage had it's issues, I did find it enjoyable over all and will probably give the second one a try, especially since the characters and world are already set up. Hopefully another book in the series will be able to jump right into the action!