Ｒａｔｉｎｇ：★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
＊Ｎｏｔｅ：I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.
✩ Amani was brave and strong-spirited. She never let the circumstances keep her down. She was also very understanding and perceptive.
✩ Maram was a character that grew on me. I understood her cruelty and coldness towards others and enjoyed the moments when she would show her vulnerable side.
✩ Idris was a character that felt kind of lost to me. He felt disconnected from his culture and family. But, he was capable of kindness and understanding.
❝ I wanted answers, but no one here would be able to give them to me. My family, my fate, my home–they were all out of my grasp for now. Perhaps forever. ❞
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own!
What first caught my attention for this book was obviously the cover. The design and symmetry just look so sleek and elegant, plus, the colors work so well together. It’s a very well designed cover. Of course, once the cover did its job I found myself looking at the description and felt some connections to Red Queen and An Ember in the Ashes. With Red Queen, it was the way the main characters were both pretending to be someone else and living among royalty. It was also kind of similar in terms of the (forbidden) romance.
For An Ember in the Ashes, it was more of the similarities in world building. Both series were about a conquered people who lived in constant fear and oppression, and both had rebellions attempting to overthrow the current state. Later on, there’s also the added element of the main character, Amani, deciding to work with the rebels and be a spy. Although, Amani does considerably less spying and consorting with the rebels than Laia did.
That being said, this book felt like it was still its own. It didn’t feel like it was trying to be something else and I appreciated that since I’ve read some books lately that very obviously try to emulate popular series and it ends up being a very poor imitation. Honestly, this book did miss on some of the points I was hoping to see. With Amani being a body double, I was really expecting more action in the book where her life was in danger but that honestly didn’t happen until the very end of the book. I think the book felt kind of slow for that reason because I kept anticipating something that never came along.
However, despite there not being the action that I wanted, I found that I really enjoyed the relationships built between Amani and our two other main characters. First, there was the relationship between Amani and Idris. I liked the easygoing friendship that they forged because of their situation. I liked that Idris could make Amani feel seen and that he helped her remember the best parts of herself that were numbed after she started imitating Maram. And I also liked that while there was some attraction the romance still developed naturally throughout the book instead of going the insta-love route.
The other relationship that I really enjoyed and that surprised me was the one between Amani and Maram. This was arguably my favorite of the two. Amani and Maram, predictably, had a very tense relationship at first. Maram was cruel and lashed out at people as a means to protect her image and to survive in a world were weakness was not an option. Of course, there was also the fact that Amani was taken against her will from her home and forced to risk her life as Maram’s body double. So it wasn’t friendly by any means at first. But, as the story progressed it felt like Maram let her down her guard more and more. Amani became somewhat of a confidant to Maram and I liked the moments where we see that tenuous friendship being forged.
❝ She had a fire in here, an unquenchable flame that would devour all that stood in her path. ❞
Amani was also both Maram and Idris’s connection to Andalaan culture. She is almost a refuge to them both because she is the one person who they can be themselves around. Amani is a great resource for both of them because she can answer questions they have about their heritage that they can’t trust anyone else to ask. I think Amani was very kind to be able to think about things from Maram’s perspective and to have the patience to slowly get her to open her mind to ruling in a different way.
Before I talk about the ending I’d like to add in a note about another element of the book that I didn’t exactly enjoy. I know that I talked about the lack of action being somewhat of an issue, but the other thing that contributed to my decision to settle on a 4-star review was the strange blend of sci-fi and medieval/tribal/middle eastern type of setting. It felt like we had royalty with handmaidens, these middle eastern kinds of cultural references (the building styles, seating styles, etc)–and then we had droids and tablets, and space-ships. It just felt a little odd to read about these kinds of medieval and middle eastern aspects but then have the sci-fi elements make appearances every now and then.
The ending was certainly fast-paced. Things happened very quickly and everything that Amani had built was suddenly at stake. I think it was a bittersweet moment because Amani risked so much and lost so much on both sides (from Maram and the rebellion) but she came out much stronger from it; she had a purpose and felt alive. I liked the way that things left off for Amani and Idris romantically because it just felt like things weren’t entirely over.
I’m very curious how things will continue in the next book between Amani and Maram. I’d like to see the relationship repaired and hopefully they can get something of that trust back, but honestly, it’s all up in the air at this point. This book may not have given me what I expected, but it was well written and I’m looking forward to continuing the series in the future.
Mirage was released on August 28th, it’s a book that’s worth checking out!