Title: Mirage (Mirage #1)
Author: Somaiya Daud (Debut)
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Release Date: August 28th 2018 from Flatiron Books
Goodreads 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 moved to the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment. Mirage is her debut, and is due from Flatiron books on 8/28/18.
This awesome lineup is a great tour for this book! Here is the link for the full schedule if you want to see more reviews on this book 🙂 The Fantastic Flying Book Club puts on amazing blog tours!
When I first heard about this Moroccan inspired sci-fi novel, I was immediately intrigued to see how it would blend the Moroccan inspiration while also being a sci-fi book. Upon finishing it, I feel like this book was exactly what the Lunar Chronicles wasn’t for me. This debut novel is my favorite book published by Flatiron books so far, with the original ideas, exquisite world building and lots of one liners of empowerment. Here’s the breakdown of my full thoughts on the book:
- Moroccan Inspiration: Obviously this book is so refreshing and enchanting with its Moroccan inspired clothing, culture, names and the mythology/religion within the book. I don’t know anything about the small African country but this pulled me into an amazing world that was its own thing. The fashion and architecture were both standouts for me, with their bright colors, imagery and the varying fashion. I felt like I was somewhere else and I need more books like this that transport you to a whole new place. I also love the aspect that religion in this book. Being religious myself, I always feel happy when the main character draws upon their faith to stay strong, overcome trials and genuinely love their religion. Religion is painted as its own picture and isn’t a point of debate which was another wonderful part of this book. I also loved that every person was a person of color to make this an even more authentic piece to its original African inspiration.
- Maram: Before going into this book, I wasn’t sure what I would think about the cruel person that Amani has to be the body double for. But oh man did she surprise me! This girl is complicated and layered, with her upbringing having a direct result of who she is in the present of the novel. Seeing the dynamic between her and Amani was a mature take on how people are different, handle life differently and also how two different cultures clash. These girls felt like real people in their conflicts to understand each other and Maram had the best growth for me. I cannot wait to see what role she will play in the later books.
- Themes: The strongest themes that I got from this book was: empowerment, staying true to yourself, the complications for peace and seeing a person beneath all their flaws. There are many sentences in this book that captured these themes perfectly and truly felt emotional. Amani goes through a lot in this book and has some hard questions to both ask and face, but she remembers her strength within and draws upon it, also reminding others of their own strength. I see this as an awesome feminist fantasy with honest intentions and truly empowering sentences that made me understand that theme. This brings up the complicated sides of war, hatred and the hard things you have to do achieve peace.
- Side Characters: So many of the side characters kept sticking with me throughout the book. There was Tala, an assistant to Amani at the palace and the Dowager (Maram’s grandmother). Both women show their strength in different ways and they show the people that haven’t been broken by the Vathek rule and refuse to let it. I think both women were such strengths to Amani and I hope they’ll continue to be like that in the sequel. I also hope that maybe some other side characters like Furat and both Amani’s brothers can developed even more.
- Future Plot Thread: There is a plot thread about a bird of prophecy that is in the religion of this world and honestly, it was very alluring and cool to read about. I like how it was woven throughout parts of the world and I am dying for more of it. I think this was my favorite aspect of the story and while I wanted more in this first book, I know it’ll be an amazing plot thread in the sequel.
- Overall Writing: I think everyone has the feeling sometimes when reading a YA book that the author can sugarcoat things or just make the story feel kinda juvenile. This book didn’t do that. The author treats these themes and character changes with a mature hand, giving us strong writing that reflects wanting to be free, being yourself and being strong amidst scary situations. The writing felt very polished for a debut novel and presented so many parts of the novel with an expert hand that impressed me.
- Pacing: While this didn’t bother me too much, the pace of this book will throw people off for sure. This is a more character based book with not a ton of action, except for the beginning and end. I understood why the book was told this way, but I still had moments where I wish that things could’ve sped up a little. I always think that action and character interactions can go hand in hand and I’m not always sure why it feels like they have to be separate things. If you enjoy more action and books with a faster pace, this might be your kind of book.
- Nearly non-existent threat level: Since Amani is taken to be Maram’s body double, I didn’t see the point for it throughout most of the novel. There are mentions of Maram being hated and the possibility of attempts on her life, but does that really happen? To be honest, no. I didn’t see the reason for Amani being there so much, going out into public as Maram. Maram didn’t even seem to have bodyguards like normal royalty would. That threat level and her necessity for being a body double was missing for most of the novel. The lack of threats felt a lot to be desired.
- Amani (for the most part): I do agree with a few reviews on GR that Maram was a much more interesting character than Amani. I did like some of the realizations and moments of inner strength Amani had, but it never impacted me as much as getting the chance to peel back Maram’s inner layers to see the true person behind the hard exterior. I felt like especially the emotional and faster moments at the end with Amani felt a bit devoid of emotion and her perspective felt somewhat repetitive in sections of the book.
- Aspects of the plot: Honestly, the end of the book felt a bit out of place for the end to a first book. I felt like the last quarter could have moved up to be earlier in the novel and then maybe some actual answers that are hinted at or at least partially answered by the end. So much of it was so slow until a few explosive moments and then it’s all quiet again. I feel like parts in the middle could’ve been tightened to move up the more faster paced moments to provide more interest. One small plot thread towards the end was where things actually got interesting but it was dealt with too quick and I felt like it was rushed under the rug. I hope the sequel has a more interesting pace with the amount of build up in this first book.
- Romance: While the romance between Amani and Idris was solid enough, I do think it felt rushed as far as their attraction went. I understood that they connected due to their heritage but that felt like that’s all it was. They thought the other person was physically attractive and their shared backgrounds gave them one thing to relate to. But their actual bond that happens with a relationship wasn’t quite there yet. I wonder how much it can be further developed in the next one. Idris does potential to be a great love interest in the sequel, but he didn’t give a great impression to me right now.
- Sci-fi Elements: To be honest, the sci-fi elements felt kinda weird in this book. While this book achieved so much more that the Lunar Chronicles didn’t, it doesn’t completely meld the possible fantasy and sci-fi elements well to let them go side by side together. I think that A Spark of White Fire handled the melding of the two genres much better. I think this would have fared much more by being a Moroccan fantasy.
Overall: I think book has a good start to a possibly great series. The world building, religion, themes, side characters and Maram offer great details for a fascinating world. I will definitely read the sequel to see how things develop and how characters will change or have bigger roles. This is a debut to not miss if you’re looking for a book to transport you to a new place and offer some great themes of empowerment. Some stuff didn’t work for me overall, but there’s always room for potential.
Rating: 1/2 stars
Have you read this book? If so what are your thoughts? What was your favorite thing(s) about it? A huge thanks again to the FFBC ladies and Flatiron books for doing this tour!
It’s another giveaway! There is 1 US copy of Mirage up for a giveaway that is USA only and will close on August 30 2018. Here’s the rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck 🙂