Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy (YA)
Publication Date: 28thAugust 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Mirage is the debut novel from Somaiya Daud and is the first instalment in this Middle Eastern style Fantasy/Sci-fi series. There’s friendship, romance, droids, mythology and an epic planetary world for you to get your teeth stuck into. Here’s five spoiler-free musings I had about this brilliant novel.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 will 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 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 princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.
Maram vs Amani
Maram is supposed to be the villain of this story, yet somehow I found myself sympathising with her the more her character developed and extra details about her upbringing were revealed. Don’t get me wrong, she starts off quite cruel and nasty, however in reality she is just a product of the Vathek world she was raised in, thanks to her father King Mathis. Whether or not Maram is the tragic hero of the story is subjective but the relationship arc between her and Amani was probably my favourite part of the book. Amani’s character on the other hand was almost the opposite of Maram’s. A humble village girl who is stolen away from her family and made to live amongst the riches of the Royal Palaces. Sooner or later, she starts to embrace the world that she’s been forced into and takes on more than just the ‘body double’. The interactions between Maram and Amani and the role they play within the story was incredibly well-written and I found myself looking forward to the parts of the book where their characters would intersect. With the way Daud leaves the ending of the novel, I’m really intrigued to see what happens next to this pair of characters.
“Could I live my life knowing I’d never stepped close to such a flame? Could I exist in the Ziyaana knowing I had chosen my shadowed half life, had accepted a horrible changing in my soul, instead of reaching out with both hands with something that might remake me? Arinaas’s flame might char my skin and break my bones, but in the end I would emerge remade, newer and stronger and a version of myself no one could snuff out.”
If you love mythology and fairytales, particularly those with an Arabian feel, then Mirage should appeal to you. Myths, legends and folklore are the undercurrent within the novel and this is what gives it that fantasy-like feel. The stories of the Tesleet bird and Massinia, to name just a few, help to pad the story out and give what is a relatively thin plot more substance. In turn, they also add to the amazing world-building created by Daud.
“Hope. Hard won, soaked in blood, a hope that burned as much as it lit her way.”
First off, the map at the beginning of this book is gorgeous. There are so many places in the world of Andala. If I could hop on a space-shuttle right now, I absolutely would. The Ouamalich Star System is so wide and vast; there are many, many places listed in this fabulous world that Somaiya has created and whilst a lot of them are mentioned and visited, a fair few are left unexplored. I’m hoping that they will have a part to play in the future of the series. To back this up, the writing in Mirage is incredibly rich. It appeals to practically every sense…and then some! I love a story where the writing is lyrical and descriptive so this is probably why Mirage appealed to me so much.
“I could feel the water in the air, cool, thin, but there. It carried with it the smell of lemons and oranges, and the sound of a hundred trees, waving gently in the wind.”
The Vathek are really the main drivers for the plot in this story. After all, they are the ones who have taken over the Andala Star System and imposed their rule. That being said, I would have liked so much more of the Vathek from this book. The storyline is fairly narrow and thin: girl gets taken from her home moon to be the body double of the princess and then faces the challenges that being the heir of an invasive regime brings. There’s a backdrop of a resistance which is lightly touched upon, the beginnings of a romance, which is subtle and twee but that (being honest) I didn’t really buy into. I can’t really explain why the Vathek wanted to take over Andala or what their motivations are within the book. We don’t really see a lot of King Mathis at all and to me, he is supposed to be the real villain as opposed to Maram. Hopefully these will get picked up more within the next book.
“In my experience, fear and hatred are great motivators for great evils.”
Sci-Fi vs Fantasy
Is Mirage Sci-fi? Is it Fantasy?
If you’re not a Sci-fi fan, don’t be put off by the fact that this book takes place in a star system…it really isn’t your classical sci-fi novel. When Maram is first described as half-Vathek, I had some strange image in my head that she was half-human/half-robot. I don’t tend to read a lot of Sci-fi stories and for the first part of this book, I couldn’t really get my head around the fact that all of the characters in the story are human beings. The only real Sci-fi parts are the fact that they live on planets and moons in a star system, travel between those planets and moons on space-crafts and use droids as their servants. (Note to self: Vatheks are not robots!) Other than that, the rest of the novel has a fantasy-like feel. It is rich in terms of characters, both living and mythological. You can easily forget that this story takes place in a star system far, far away.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Mirage. The best way I can think to describe it is like an Arabian Star Wars story (I even pictured King Mathis as a bit like Darth Vadar if I’m being totally honest). It’s got brilliant female characters, an incredibly exotic world and a folklore all of its own. Daud really has the scope and ability to turn Mirage into a thrillingly exciting series, I can’t wait to see if she takes us there!
Have you read Mirage? As always, drop me a comment to chat!