Publishes on August 28th, 2018
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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.
I had a hard time getting into Mirage initially. I felt like the beginning was a bit rushed, and I didn’t have very much time to connect with Amani before being launched into the plot. Also, since it is sci-fi, there’s a lot of names of people groups places to keep track of, and this made it a little challenging at times to understand what was going on.
However, once I did start connecting with the characters, I loved it. It was wonderful to (finally!) meet a heroine who was gentle and kind, and even though she was in the midst of horrible circumstances, she didn’t let them change her into a hardened, cynical warrior. Amani was compassionate, even to her enemies, and I absolutely loved that. Her relationship with Maram was my favorite part of the whole book. My only quibble with her was that she fell in love far too quickly, and I just couldn’t quite ship the romance. (They hardly knew each other! How could they possibly be in love already?) It did get better though as the relationship developed, and I have hopes for the sequel(s).
The sci-fi setting didn’t play a major role in the story. Yes, they use spaceships and blasters. Yes, they travel from planet to moon to plant. However, the story could have just as easily been set in a fictional country, or even a historical setting, and the plot wouldn’t have changed too much.
Overall, I’m rating Mirage 4 stars. Amani is a breath of fresh air on the YA scene, and I hope that she’ll show readers that it’s okay to love, and be compassionate and gentle, and at the same time still be incredibly strong.
Recommended for Ages 14 and up
Most of the characters are either Andalaan or Vathek. Maram is both. The Andalaans are described as having dark skin and hair. The Vathek have paler skin, and silver hair. The Vatheks have strong racial prejudice against the Andalaans.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
One reference (“Silence is the most —– criticism”).
Several passionate kisses, semi-detailed. Mentions of touching, and desire. One poem seems very erotic in nature, though it’s not explicit. In one scene, it’s not entirely clear how far the characters get intimately.
The religion revolves around Dihya, the male deity, and Massinia, the female prophet. Massinia is rumored to return one day to her people. Tesleets, a sort of mythical bird, as shown to be messengers of Dihya and good omens. One character is largely viewed as being Massinia returned, though she is not actually Massinia.
Note: the religion is very important to the characters, and heavily influences their actions and the plot. While it is a made-up religion, it seemed to have strong influences from both Islam and Christianity, without being an allegory or having a clear connection to either. I could see younger readers easily becoming confused by this, so parents should be aware and willing to discuss with their kids the themes in this book.
Semi-graphic descriptions of wounds, killings, and attacks, mostly by the brutal Vathek.
Characters drink wine.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It must be so refreshing to read a heroine that doesn’t turn to stone, and lose all of her gentility, in the face of hardship. You see it far too often, especially in sci-fi and fantasy. Great review!