Mirage by Somaiya Daud (Mirage #1)

In a world 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 home. 

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' fianc , 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.

COVER ART: Anna Gorovoy (design)
CONTRIBUTOR(S): Rasha Zamamiri (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: MacMillan Audio
YEAR: 2018
LENGTH: 311 pages (8 hours 58 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.

MIRAGE is a story of a girl forced to be the body double for the princess assumed to be the next monarch of her colonized planet. As Amani adjusts to the strict requirements of her new role, she starts connecting with others who are trying to end the occupation.

I love the worldbuilding in MIRAGE. It’s concerned with language, culture, and class dynamics reinforced through colonization. Its suffuses everything from Amani's life with her family to the Vathek court and everything in between. It was obvious to me that many parts of the language are based on Arabic, and the interview with the author which is included in the audiobook clarified for me that it was specifically influenced by Moroccan culture. Even before I knew which specific country's history had contributed to the worldbuilding, there were so many wonderfully detailed moments which filled this picture of a people who went to space and have been living on this moon for so long that their culture references a long history on that moon and not their arrival from somewhere else. 

This deals heavily with the cruelty of colonizers, and the difficulty of Amani trying to stay alive when everything she does to preserve her life also helps her oppressors. The Vathek colonizers are quasi-European, culturally and aesthetically different from those they’re subjugating. Long stretches in the middle are a bit more hopeful, as every time Amani is sent somewhere instead of the princess it’s more time that she can interact without a harsh gaze upon her. One complication is that the princess is engaged to be married, so Amani interacts with her fiancĂ©, Idris, who isn't supposed to know about the body double. I like Idris, his dynamic with Amani is really sweet. I especially love the way that they slowly begin discussing more of their history and shared culture together, since Idris was made to forget his first language years ago but Amani still can read and speak it. 

As the first book of a trilogy, this establishes Amani's transformation away from who she was before she was kidnapped. There's more of a focus on Vathek culture because Amani has to become familiar with the Vathek court to survive. The ending was a dramatic shift and I'm excited for how the next book handles things.

Graphic/Explicit CW for racism, kidnapping, blood, violence, gun violence, police brutality, colonization, slavery.

Moderate CW for fire/fire injury, infidelity, bullying, emotional abuse, physical abuse, injury detail, medical content, torture, parental death, child death, death.

Minor CW for sexual content, pregnancy.

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