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Somaiya Daud’s debut novel, MIRAGE, is a stunning galactic adventure of conquerors, secrets, love and friendship. The Vathek empire has taken over the Andalan star system. Amani is a village girl whose whole world is disrupted when she is taken from her family and home to the royal palace where the half-Vathek Princess Maram lives. At the palace Amani learns why she was kidnapped: Princess Maram is hated among the conquered people and therefore requires a body double to appear in public for her in case of an assassination attempt or rebel attack. Amani looks nearly identical to Maram and so she is forced to play this role that she never wanted. As Maram’s body double, Amani learns about the Vathek empire and the politics that surround her as one wrong move could expose her and lead to her death.

"I would recommend this book to all fantasy lovers!...You’ll either hate Maram, pity her, or love her, and that makes her character so much more interesting than a typical one dimensional villain."

From the moment I read the synopsis I knew I would love this book. That, along with the gorgeous cover, created an adventurous sci-fi read that I couldn’t put down. As Amani navigates new waters and impersonates someone that is feared and hated, readers will feel their own fear as Amani’s mistakes could lead to her death. Each time her secret was revealed to someone in power I felt so scared that Maram was going to find out and punish Amani. Additionally, Amani’s other secrets that she kept from Maram made my heart pound whenever Maram was close to discovering them.

While I did love the romance in this book while reading, in hindsight, it now feels like it was forced for the sake of the plot. It was amusing for me that the romantic interest was named Idris, which is also the shadowhunter homeland in The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. Every time Idris’ name was mentioned I couldn’t help but think of my favorite shadowhunters, Jace and Clary. While Idris was very sweet and I did love him and Amani together, the romance happens so quickly that it almost seems too convenient.

The various Kushaila stories were so interesting to me and this world that Daud has built is so intriguing. A novella on just the history of the solar system organization alone would be so amazing to read as there is so much more information I would love to know. At times if felt like Amani’s stories were information dumps on the reader, which confused me at first, but as I read more I began to understand how the world works.

I would recommend this book to all fantasy lovers! Though it does take place on planets and moons and is more sci-fi, the elements of regular fantasy books still exist even if you don’t normally read sci-fi. You’ll either hate Maram, pity her, or love her, and that makes her character so much more interesting than a typical one dimensional villain. I can’t wait to read the next book and see what unfolds in the wake of the ending of this one! The balance of power between the Vaths and the rebels will surely become more delicate and I’m excited to see what happens between Maram and Amani, and if Maram ever shakes Nadine’s hold over her.

Reviewed by Ilona K., Teen Board Member on September 12, 2018

by Somaiya Daud