Author: Somaiya Daud | Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
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, and of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day she, too, will have adventures and travel beyond her isolated moon.
But when adventure comes, it’s not what she expects. She is kidnapped and taken in secret to the royal palace. There, she discovers 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 to appear in public, 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’ fiance, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear, and she soon realises that one wrong move could lead to her death.
I wanted to love Mirage. I’d read glowing reviews, and, even on first glance, I could tell it was beautifully written. Like I said, I wanted to love it. But I didn’t…
The writing is impeccable. The style of the language has the grace and elegance, the lyrical cadence, of Arabic poetry. It has that same, slightly antique but delicate quality to it. You don’t see that much anymore, and it was refreshing to find. And the descriptive prose is magical. Just enough to make the reader see the writer’s vision, while still tantalising their imagination. Evocative, colourful and tactile. If I didn’t necessarily enjoy everything about the book, the beauty of the language and the world Somaiya Daud created kept me reading until the end.
The worldbuilding in Mirage is exquisite, very detailed and very creative. I definitely got the Moroccan vibe, which I thought was unique and well-woven into the fantasy. The best lies have a basis in truth, and the same is true in good fantasy writing. I enjoyed the world immensely, and the sense of place is one which will stick with me. I thought the concept behind the world Somaiya created was interesting and made for good reading.
The plot itself is well paced and structured. A little slow in some places where there’s a lot of detail or character development, but this all feeds the worldbuilding. And the story is interesting: unique, emotive, romantic, and a wee bit tragic.
And that’s where I think I had the problem. I like a good romance, but things got depressing with Mirage really fast. I just didn’t feel that there was a sense of hope to keep me reading. And I wanted more action. The story is heavily character-driven, more so than most fantasy you’ll read. Which is fine. I liked the characters, and I thought they were well-rounded and had a great “real feel”. I just wanted more… something. More drama, more events, more twists and turns, maybe.
I completely understand why other readers loved Mirage. There was a lot to love. I just don’t think it was for me. I enjoyed it, certainly, but I can’t say I’d recommend it.