Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.
Mirage is a Moroccan inspired tale about eighteen-year-old Amani’s dream of travelling the world almost comes true when the Vathek empire kidnaps her. She discovers she looks virtually identical to the half Vathek Princess. A princess so hated by the public that Amani is forced to become her body double, should someone take aim. Amani’s life is on the line as she must mirror the princess to perfection.
Where most would have failed to bring to life these characters, Daud flourishes. Each and every single one had such a strong and exciting presence. Amani and her reluctant friendship with Maram. Amani adjusting to her new role and lifestyle. The entire world and its system are so genuinely amazing. I dived into this thinking it was just a fantasy, but I was utterly surprised away by the sci-fi elements. It is absolutely fantastic. I truly enjoyed Maram, our stone cold princess whom Amani must mirror, the most. Perhaps this is the first time I’m genuinely captivated the villain. Don’t get me wrong, I hated her, but she is so exciting. The relationship dynamic between the two girls were so compelling and fascinating.
This book amazingly showcases the topic of family, culture and tradition. It addresses colonialism and the erasure of cultures and religions via oppression. It is a bit slower than what you’d expect for a fantasy, focusing on exploring the relationships as Amani has to decide whom she can trust but its character interactions and court politics scenes were some of the best in the book.
The books biggest downfall, but wasn’t as weak as it could’ve been, is the romance. Where most books fail is where Daud succeeded was making sure the romance wasn’t the be all and end all of this entire book. Everything else in is this book was so good that the romance, for me, was merely eclipsed that everything else that was good. It still worked in a way that didn’t overpower the narrative. But Amani and Idris can still tug at one’s heartstrings. Hell, even my cons of this book aren’t honestly cons.
Overall, Mirage is a solid debut which kicked off the duology with a strong narrative in a world of magic and danger. The danger and adventure Amani faces in this court that holds her prisoner makes Mirage an utterly captivating read.
Content warning: kidnapping, physical abuse, war themes, death, murder, forced body alterations, oppression. (If you’ve read Mirage and felt like I’ve missed something out, tell me!)