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.
*ARC provided as a part of a blog tour. The thoughts are entirely my own and in no way biased.*
Trigger Warning : bigotry, colonization, physical abuse, violence, attempted murder, death, cultural appropriation
So… a little background? I first heard of this book through Fadwa @ Word Woonders. She raved about it, and since then, this novel had been on my TBR. I was fortunate enough to snag an ARC when I was given a spot on the blog tour for Court of Lions by Caffeine Book Tours. And I was absolutely not disappointed. The book truly lived up to the hype surrounding it, and for that, I’m grateful.
Mirage follows the story of Amani, and how she gets embroiled into a revolution that’s more than what she could’ve ever dreamed of. The entire journey through the first book was beautifully done. The plot is great, and it was very well paced with amazing character arcs. All in all, it had all makings of a very good SFF novel and I loved that.
Amani, the main lead of the story, is a great, well thought out character. I loved watching her as the story progressed. She was kidnapped and then forcefully thrown into a situation where she had no option to do what was demanded from her if she wanted to survive. She handled herself very well in the face of what came her way. She grew throughout the book, turning situations to her advantage, taking initiative in any way that she could, and just doing her best in anyway possible. I loved how she took charge, how she tried to turn things around for herself. Her passion showed in everything she did. She loved very fiercely and it endeared me to her so much.
Idris, Amani’s love interest, was someone I adored. His idealogies and his upbringing, coupled with everything he’d suffered since he was a child had made him wary of making many friends, but his relationship with Amani developed as they both spent time together, starting as allies, then becoming friends, and eventually falling in love. Their relationship felt very organic. I loved reading their interactions. They always brought a smile to my face. The fact that their romance was forbidden made it even more amazing, because let’s admit it, we’re all suckers for that.
Finally, coming to my favourite character in the series, Maram. Maram is a ruthless, cruel princess and Amani is kidnapped so she can be Maram’s body double. Maram is mixed blood, with her father being Vathek, the invader, and her mother being Kushaila, the people who were invaded. As a result, she isn’t liked much by either people, and her life is constantly in danger, which is why, Amani is made to make physical appearances in her stead. (Idris is her fiance. It’s an arranged marriage, and neither of them are particularly happy about it either. It’s in her time as replacing Maram that Amani and Idris’ relationship develops.)
If I had to chose a favourite, it would be without a doubt, Maram. She’s hated because of who she is, with no fault of her own, and that rejection and hatred has turned her into someone who hides behind her cruelty so people don’t see her for who she actually is. But, as the story progresses, we see different shades of her personality, we see the princess who is just so lonely and scared that she’s taken to being vindictive as a coping mechanism. We see her relationship with Amani develop to something as akin to sisters. That development, to me, is the best aspect of the story. It’s so well done and beautifully shown that you can’t help but love it.
As a whole, I enjoyed the story a lot. It was a short book with only 300 or so pages and so it made for a quicker read which definitely gets some brownie points, but also, it’s very engaging, especially for being a first book in a duology. Never do you feel bored or that you’d be better off skipping some scenes or descriptions. The pacing is great, the plot is amazing. The emphasis on poetry in this book is something that I love. Amani loves poetry, and the way it plays a role in her life, as well as in the plot, is demonstrated gorgeously. I’d definitely recommend fans of SFF to read this book.
Since I’m not an #OwnVoices reviewer for this story, I’m linking Fadwa’s review for the same below. She’s the only OV reviewer for this story I know as of now, but if you are an OV reviewer for this story, please let me know. I’d love to link your reviews too!
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Somaiya Daud is the author of Mirage and holds a PhD from the University of Washington in English literature. A former bookseller in the children’s department at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., now she writes and teaches full time.
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Have you read Mirage? Did you like it? How excited are you for Court of Lions?
I am super excited, especially since I’ve only seen positive reviews.
It is very good and I think you’ll really enjoy it!
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