Is it fantasy? Is it sci-fi? I have no idea, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mirage by Somaiya Daud.
At just shy of 80K words (roughly 300 pages long), it makes for a quick weekend read, but I think that’s a good thing for this particular story. Mirage is heavily character-driven, so the shorter length prevents it from feeling too internalized and slow. Character-driven stories tend to feel boring in that all the growth happens within the characters rather than playing out externally through the plot.
With that small disclaimer, let’s recap Mirage.
Mirage summary (spoilers!)
Mirage begins with a prologue written in the third-person POV of a teenage boy. But we find out he isn’t just some ordinary boy; he’s essentially a child soldier for a rebel group seeking to overthrow their Vathek oppressors.
The Vath are a brutal race of people who’ve conquered the Mizaal galaxy of the Ouamalich star system. Namely, they have claimed the planet of Andala as their own, displacing and enslaving the natives. They are silver-haired, pale, and frosty-eyed, whereas Andalaans are a deep bronze with dark curly hair and eyes that range from golden brown to green.
Additionally, the Vath seem more rooted in science and technology than the natives they rule. They use sophisticated droids to do a lot of dirty work for them. Contrastingly, Andalaans value tradition, spirituality, music, poetry. Family is important to them.
The two races are essentially polar opposites.
The term Mirage evokes a gorgeous Arabian atmosphere for its setting, while also hinting at its main story plot. The protagonist is 18-year-old Amani. She is abducted, then forced to serve the widely hated half-Andalaan, half-Vathek princess named Maram who looks exactly like her.
It’s like in Star Wars, where Keira Knightley plays Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala decoy.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud ending
Naturally, when a slave looks like she’s the replica of a princess who is basically her sworn enemy, the story is bound to get interesting. Then throw in the fact that Princess Maram is betrothed to the handsome, sweet, romantic Andalaan prince, Idris, the story becomes increasingly interesting.
Amani spends the majority of the book alone, missing her parents and brothers since being taken from her own coming of age ceremony. She trains for months on how to emulate Princess Maram—how to behave like her, speak like her, think like her. She eventually gets very good at this, and Maram entrusts her more and more to handle various events and to take off-world trips in her stead. This is how Amani and Idris fall in love with each other. This is also how Amani ends up joining forces with the Andalaan rebels, becoming their spy.
Remember that child soldier from the prologue? In that scene, he’s attempting to assassinate Maram. Amani learns about that plot and trades places with Maram to save her. When the boy is about to be executed, Amani steps in to spare his life, which is how everyone finds out that she is not Maram.
Her punishment is to watch a recording of her family getting badly beaten by droids. Not wanting to cause her family further harm, Amani has no choice but to acquiesce to Maram’s wishes and continue her servitude as a slave.
The book ends with Amani sitting hopelessly in her courtyard when a tesleet—an enormous phoenix-like bird—pays her a visit. Tesleets are special in her culture. To see one is like seeing a sign from god. This gives Amani renewed hope, and she vows to fight against the Vath.
Book review: Mirage by Somaiya Daud (Mirage #1)
I rated Mirage by Somaiya Daud four stars on Goodreads. While I really enjoyed the plot and the world and its characters, something was missing for me. Amani spent a lot of time in her head worrying and thinking about those she loves, but I think I wanted to learn more about Maram. She seemed to disappear for days and weeks at a time with no real interaction with Amani. And just when I was starting to peel away the layers, the book ended.
But maybe the sequel will continue to unravel who Maram is. I’ll just have to read and find out.
Another thing I wished to see was Amani writing her own poetry. I love poetry. I like reading it, I like writing it. So when I read about Amani’s character writing poetry, I was hooked. But I don’t recall a single scene where she actually wrote her own poetry. Recited it, yes. Sang it, yes. But not writing any herself. That left the character a little flat for me.
But maybe it’s because Amani was too busy training to be Maram or too terrified of being caught (writing and speaking poetry, especially in Kushaila, is illegal).
Regardless, I’m looking forward to finishing the second book. I’ll end this post with a few quotes I highlighted while reading. Hope you enjoy them!
- Our souls will return home, we will return, the first poem read. We will set our feet in the rose of the citadel.
- The blood never dies. The blood never forgets.
- Only a fool would hope to be raised to the Ziyanna. A cage is a cage even if gilded. Even if it softens my hands.
- Everytime I see you, Amani, feels like a gift and a reprieve. But every moment together means that her confirmation, and our marriage, draws closer.
We have this. But the world will decide what becomes of us.
I am tired of being at the mercy of the world.
- This is why you’ve only ever born sons, Nusaiba. You are a weak-minded fool.
- When night falls, come and visit me, For I have seen night keeps secrets best.
- I urge you to come on feet faster than the wind, Come and rise over my breast and take root in me and plough me. And no matter what befalls you while we’re entwined, Don’t let me go until you’ve flushed me thrice.
- All may see the stars, but few will see their forebears. And to those whose eyes see golden fire We say heed Us and listen.
- For We have sent unto you a Sign. See it and take heed.
Recently, I won a NetGalley ARC of the sequel to Mirage by Somaiya Daud: Court of Lions. I’m currently reading my way through it, so check back next week for my review. Update: Go here for the review.
It will be available for purchase on August 4.
In the meantime, you might check out Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte. It’s a fast-paced standalone fantasy novel with serious murder mystery vibes and compelling political and societal themes woven throughout.