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.
When I first picked up Mirage from my tbr pile at home, I had no idea what I was expecting. I can best describe this book as the female version of The Prince and The Pauper in Space with hints of forced colonialism and imperialism. The first chapter had me hooked on the story, and normally, it takes a couple chapters before I become invested in a book.
Mirage was quite different from what I have read. To begin, it seems like not much happened, that was my original thought when I first finished the book. After letting my thoughts marinate for a couple days, this book does not bring the action, but it builds up to potential conflict that the characters will encounter in the upcoming sequel.
To begin, Amani is not the chosen one, nor is she a Mary Sue character. Amani dreams of having her life with far less restrictions, she and her family live in a village. She has a passion for reading books, especially poetry. She and her brothers live in a society where the Vathek Empire has subjugated other planets into submission, and Amani’s planet is one of them. When Amani’s village is celebrating a special cultural practice, robots serving the empire take Amani by force away from her people and family. Amani is forced into a position in which she has no control over her body, nor her fate.
Amani shares a close resemblance to Princess Maram. Amani is presented as a fragile when compared to Maram’s vicious nature. Amani becomes the Empire’s puppet in order to protect the princess from any danger. Given the tough situation, Amani does get agency. Though being Maram’s body double did give Amani fright at first, she learns that she can wield her own power given her position. Amani obeys and listens to her orders, but, she also learns to manipulate her situation.
The relationship between Maram and Amani is complicated. The princess is shown to be as a morally grey character. As a reader, you question Maram’s ideals. Was she influenced by her nature, or her nurture? At the same, you can’t help but feel sorry for the princess. She was been raised by her Vathek family, and it has served as a factor to why she behaves in a cruel, and unjust manner.
As for the love interest, I will admit, it was definitely a insta-love situation, and usually I loathe insta-love relationships. But, I found myself digging the relationship between Amani and Idris. It was a forbidden love, and both characters are forced into positions that they have to comply to. Though, I am interested to know how Idris and Maram are in a relationship, because it’s vague and left to the imagination. The ending left me craving for the next book immediately. The very last chapters has the suspense and action that it was lacking in the first portion. I came with little to no expectations when it came to Mirage, but I wholeheartedly love it. It’s science fiction, fantasy, has the drama you need, and I think I might ship Amani and Maram more than Idris and Amani!
Final Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐