‘In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, sixteen-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 poetry she loves to hear read, she dreams of one day 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. When she is kidnapped by the government and taken in secret to the royal palace, 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, and one wrong move could lead to her death.’
This year, I have had the good fortune to read many books that I’ve greatly enjoyed, but if I were to choose one that stands out as having grabbed hold of my heart and not let go, it would be Mirage.
The characters have voices that ring true and are written in such a way that you begin to care for them very quickly, particularly Amani and Maram (even when she’s being awful), and though there are some predictable elements to the narrative, such as the romance, the world-building and mythology of the novel are beautiful and immersive. It’s very easy to set up a ‘good side’ and a ‘bad side’, but what Mirage does well is ensure that even the characters that the reader is supposed to dislike are so much more than one-dimensional ‘villains’ and are, in-fact, just as well developed as the main protagonist. As the story unfolds and the nuances of society and politics are revealed, it’s just as easy to feel sympathy for those in power as it is to feel it for those they command and control, for nothing is ever as clear cut as it seems.
Amani is a strong lead character who is at her best when in scenes with Maram and where their upbringings and world views are in direct contrast. They both evolve over the course of the narrative, reaching new understandings about the world they live in and uncovering facets of themselves that they don’t necessarily like, so much so that it’s difficult to decide where most sympathy should lie by the novel’s conclusion. Though the character in the story with the highest rank is male, it’s the women in the story who are its heart and hold power there, from the leading women themselves to Amani’s mother and Maram’s grandmother. Seeing how the perceptions of women on different sides of the conflict impacts how they view each other – and how they alter as barriers shift and change – is one of the most interesting facets of the story.
Mirage is a wonderful book that takes on what it is to be caught between worlds, the impact conflict has on cultural identity and how history has a tendency to be rewritten by those in power. Not only this, but it has a stellar and complex cast of relatable female characters. A must-read for 2018!
(Please note that the UK cover will be teal and gold if you’re looking for Mirage on the shelves of UK bookshops!)
Pub date: 28th August 2018