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 is the latest in the new trend of books about subjects being forced to serve royalty and then slowly coming to join a rebellion. Still, it’s an interesting idea: a body double for a hated princess? The story had real potential. The book is written in flowery language that attempts to capture the beauty of classical poetry. The issue is that barely anything happens. The plot is so barren, and when the book ends just as things start to pick up. The story seems like a series of small moments strung together with no real overarching plot holding everything together. The premise was rather fascinating, but the story didn’t make the most out of it. For a story about “violence and fear” there is no fighting at all, and basically no rebelling either. Amani spends a lot more time cooking than she does rebelling, and she spends a whole lot of time examining how beautiful everything is. The world building is complex. You’ll need to pay attention if you’re hoping to understand who is conquering who, who hates who and why. Maram’s family tree is also overly complicated, and there are just so many characters that float in and out of the story for no apparent reason. The characters are well fleshed-out, if not completely likable. You have the stubborn and resilient Amani who keeps fluctuating between her conflicted emotions. Idris, who is basically the Prince Charming of the story, and nothing more. Maram turned out to be a surprise package in this book. She hides a spectrum of emotions behind her tough exterior, and suffers from the burdens placed on her at such a young age. The plot moves much too slowly, and it doesn’t seem like anything of value really happened anywhere in the story. The story drops off in the middle of the climax, possible hoping to attract readers to a sequel? Even said climax seems forced and could have been easily avoided with some rational thinking on Amani’s part. The only reason I’d come back is for Maram, a worthy addition to my list of favorite literary teenage royals.
Medha rates this book 3.5/5
Tags: fantasy, rebellion, kingdoms, war, science fiction, romance, relationships, violence