By Somiya Daud
Published August 28, 2018 by Flatiron Books.
Mirage is a diverse sci-fi fantasy with Moroccan influences, and I really liked it. It’s very cool to have sci-fi/fantasy books that aren’t rooted in Western European traditions.
Mirage is technically science fiction. It takes place on another planet, and they have advanced technology. But except for traveling on spaceships and some use of technology, this book feels much more like a fantasy.
The main character, Amani, is a peasant living on a moon of the planet Andala. The brutal Vathek empire conquered her planet before she was born, and they’ve crushed all opposition. Amani is a bit of a dreamer, and she wants to write poetry. On the night of her majority celebration, Amani is kidnapped by imperial droids, who take her to the royal palace to become a body double for the heir to the throne, Princess Maram. Amani and Maram are virtually identical. The princess is half-Andalan and half-Vathek, and she’s hated by the Andalan people, so she’s at risk of assassination any time she’s in public. The two girls are worlds apart, and Amani has to be trained to take the princess’ place. Add in palace politics, the princess’ handsome fiance, and a budding rebellion, and you have all the elements on an exciting fantasy.
Princess Maram is cruel and vicious. The Andalans hate her, but the Vath don’t like her very much either. Although she’s supposed to be the heir to the throne according to an old treaty, her father has yet to actually appoint her as his heir, and she has an older half-sister who’s full Vathek, so her position isn’t guaranteed.
The princess has a fiance, the handsome and charming Idris, and Amani finds herself attracted to him. I found the romance the least interesting part of the book. Idris is very nice, but kind of dull and I didn’t feel much chemistry between him and Amani.
The relationship between Amani and Maram is much more interesting. It starts off badly, as Amani is completely in Maram’s power, and Maram is very cruel to her. But in order for Amani to successful impersonate Maram, the two are forced to spend a lot of time together. Amani starts to get inside the princess’ head and figure out what makes her tick. A sort of grudging respect develops between the two women. They’re not exactly friends, but by living in Maram’s shoes, Amani sees that the princess’ life is not an easy one in many ways.
Mirage is the start of the trilogy. The author has done an excellent job of world-building, and I’m interested to see where the story goes.
I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.