“Mirage” by Somaiya Daud
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Science Fiction
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.
Mirage was a great story. The world building was really interesting. The juxtaposition of sci-fi and a faux Middle Eastern world is a superb idea. It was a new idea for me. Hurray for diverse science fiction! I didn’t love that I struggled with what were real elements from Middle Eastern cultures (names of clothing for example) versus what fictional elements in this world. I would have really loved a glossary of terms for this.
The relationships are really what make this story. Amani and her brothers were wonderful. I love genuine sibling love. Amani and Maram worked really well together. They do butt heads but you can see the growth that comes from them learning from each other. Even Idris and Amani were lovely together. I don’t enjoy the cheating aspect though. [I know the engagement is one of convenience rather than love…I still consider it cheating.]
The court politics is where I enjoyed the story the most. Maram’s struggle to fit in when both sides of lineage don’t mesh well together. Rebellion brewing just beneath the surface. Really great.
The sci-fi elements on the other hand were lacking. Other than the story taking place on different planets, intergalactic travel, and droids, I really didn’t get strong sense of science fiction.
While the story wasn’t best suited for me, I still think it’s a great read for anyone looking for an Own Voices sci-fi story.