Mirage by Somaiya Daud
★★★☆☆ // 2.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads review: here
Mirage has a lot of heart to offer. Unfortunately, the writing heavily skews toward telling over showing.
In short: The Vathek empire has taken over the Andaala star system, where our protag Amani lives. She’s a farmer girl from the Andaalan moon Cadiz and is kidnapped and forced to be the cruel half-Vathek and half-Andaalan princess’s body double. There’s some rebellion against the Vathek brewing in the background, but also a really handsomely tragic and tragically handsome prince named Idris for Amani to romance for the majority of the book. Amani and Maram (the princess) bond, but Amani joins the rebel cause and obviously there is a personal betrayal coming, which resets us back to square one with Amani’s kidnapping situation. The story feels a little incomplete given the ending, which is obviously a set up for the sequel novel.
Mirage has a lot of heart to offer. Unfortunately, the writing heavily skews toward telling over showing. The concept is great, but the writing needs work to convince me why I should care to read through a bunch of uninspiring inner monologue from the main character. Even though Mirage brings in an authentic take on colonialization and good incorporation of its Morroccan-inspired world, it follows YA convention to a T otherwise. With that comes the typical YA weaknesses – like how the book couldn’t make up its mind on whether it wanted to be a romance with brewing uprising in the background or brewing uprising with romance in the background a la the Selection trilogy.
Maram is a heavily under-developed and under-utilized character. She is strikingly stupid for a princess character. Given the reasources and education she should have received, she sure does let a village girl do a lot of the work *she* is supposed to be doing. She had a lot of potential to be a Laurent-esque (from Captive Prince) character. If this book were a cake, I’d describe it as the Selection series as the base cake with Captive Prince frosting on top. We could have had it all, y’all. The core relationship in this book should have been between Maram and Amani, but the author opted to give Idris more story-time and constantly has Amani imagining how hard Maram’s life is in the least subtle way imaginable.
The insta-love is strong in this one. I personally don’t mind that Idris is quote unquote handsome and tragic. I don’t even mind the raunchy poetry Amani receives about “ploughing.” What I do mind is that this “love” would not hold up if these two met in different circumastances – it only exists because the situations they’re put in allow for emotions to run high.
The way the initial premise was set up, there seemed to be no direction for the plot besides that hey, Amani is a body double now and there are obviously rebels coming to a royal event near you soon.
I think I like this book more than I objectively think this book deserves, which is why I can’t bring myself to give this a 2 star read. A list of things I actually did like:
- The Andaalan emblem is a bird
- Visiting fake Grandma’s house
- How the occupation of Andaala by the Vathek affected how the people of Andaala interact with their culture, and how it’s different for the royal kids who grew up under this period of time.
- How much Amani cherishes her culture and where she came from.
- The history of Maram’s family
- Maram and Amani making bread.
- Idris being lampshaded as the handsome but tragic love interest very. And I mean, his physical description is pretty nice, I will admit. At least Amani has good taste.
- the raunchy poetry Amani got as a present from Idris
- lots of women in power
- The religion of Amani’s people highlights this, as the prophetess was a woman.
- The monarch who ruled Andaala before the Vathek came was a queen.
- The leader of the rebels is a woman.
- The Vathek king’s potential heirs are all female as well, and there seemed to be no problem that the next in-line ruler would be a woman.
I think my expectations were set too high for this book. If I had picked it up knowing it’d be something akin to the Selection series energy-wise, I think I would have rolled along with it and given it 3 stars no problem. As it stands, this book feels incomplete, but I know there’s a sequel coming, so there’s that.