Trigger/Content Warning: kidnapping, physical abuse, death, war, blackmail/threatening to kill loved ones.
“He does not feel young. He feels hungry, the sort of hungry that gnaws at him day and night, until it is so much his companion he does not know how to live without it. He feels hard, because he knows how to take a beating, how to fall just so when a guard hits him with a baton. He feels angry, so angry, the sort of anger that does not need fuel.”
Mirage was a pleasant surprise. I remembered little of the synopsis – which you can read on Goodreads here – when I started reading this book, which made the initial scenes very intense (though, I expect they would still be intense even if you know what the book is about)!
So, we start off on the moon Cadiz with Amani and her family. They are farmers doing their best to survive the brutality of the Vathek who invaded their lands. On Amani’s majority night – an event for those who have turned 18 where they receive daan (religious symbols tattooed on their faces detailing their families hopes and wishes for them) – the Vathek King’s droids kidnap her and take her to the royal palace on another planet.
On this planet, Andala, Amani discovers she is nearly identical to the Princess Maram. She is then forced to learn how to behave like the cruel princess so that she can act as her body double in dangerous situations. One wrong move could not only cost Amani her life, but also her family’s lives.
“I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.”
My synopsis really doesn’t do the story justice. There is so much incorporated into this book, I flew through it, and then wished I had read slower so I could enjoy it longer.
Amani is such an interesting character. I wouldn’t say she develops much throughout the story, but only because I believe the empathy she displays near the end was always a part of her. She is the kind to Maram’s cruel, but she understands that Maram grew up in a very different environment than she did.
The relationship that develops between Amani and Maram was so intriguing. I don’t know that I agreed with the way Amani behaves at times, but that is probably because she is a better person than I. She displays kindness to those who are cruel to her, and I expect that is something everyone should aspire to.
“Someone risked their life so you would always know where you came from.”
And let’s not forget Idris! AKA the gorgeous love interest who has been forcibly engaged to the princess, but finds more in common with Amani. Some people have said it was insta-love between Idris and Amani, but I didn’t find that. To me it felt well developed. Their relationship blossomed because of their shared heritage, and likely because of their shared alliance. It didn’t feel rushed to me and I rather enjoyed it, but be warned that some people did not like the romance in this book – personal preference!
It is also clear that the love story is not the main point of the story. Daud’s story is about oppression, family, friendship, and fighting for what you believe is right. It encompasses so many brilliant themes, and the romance is simply a small part of that.
“He missed nothing when he looked at me like that, and he always came away having learned something I had not offered.”
There were a few times when I felt there was a lot of story happening at once, and not a lot of character dialogue to tie it together. However, the story was so engaging that it didn’t end up mattering to me. I, quite simply, was desperate to know what would happen next.
Mirage is an own-voices, Moroccan-inspired fantasy, and Daud does an excellent job of creating a world filled with beautiful imagery and inspiring myths. Oh, not to mention, there are a ton of strong, amazing female characters, and there’s literally a point in the book where they talk about not needing anyone else to make them better and I LOVE IT!
“The blood never dies. The blood never forgets.”
According to Goodreads, book two, Court of Lions, doesn’t release until May 2020, so if you need me, I’ll be in hibernation until then.