Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

This was a really good read. It was a little slow but in a good way, where it gave me proper time to fully immerse myself in the characters and their development. The world building is great and I cannot wait for the sequel.
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The world Somaiya Daud creates in Mirage is fascinating, but the words were so far removed from reality that I had a hard time remembering who was who and where was what.

The timeline was a little confusing as well. I know there is such thing as too much detail of the past, but this almost had too little. I often was unsure if things they were mentioning were recent events or happened decades ago.

I’m not always turned off by violence, but this was a bit much, right from the get go. Though the overall story was interesting and in the genre of books that I like, the details were distracting enough to pull me out of the story again and again.

I’m a bit of a sucker for a well written make out session and the author did a wonderful job with the romance. The author described their emotions and interactions to create several swoon worthy scenes, but I never found myself completely immersed in the world she created.
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This is an incredible debut with wonderful imagery, a carefully detailed plot, and complicated characters. I cannot wait to see what this author does next!
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I tried.... I wanted to love this book. I wanted to get into it. But alas I could not. I picked it up 3 times before I decided I just couldn’t get into it. The writing was good the story just didn’t hold my attention.
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Unfortunately the time has passed on reviewing this book for me. I am still interested in it, but not immediately. Sorry for any inconvenience.
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On the night of her coming of age celebration, Amani is kidnapped and taken to the royal palace in secret. It is there where she learns that her appearance is identical to the half-Vathek Princess Matham, unconfirmed heir to the throne who is hated by the people and requires a body double to pose as her and keep her safe. Forced into the role to protect herself and her loved ones, Amani finds herself learning more about the princess, her betrothed and palace life and slowly coming to understand how the power could shift when the princess takes the throne. But will the violence and lies that are part and parcel of royal life and revolution derail the future that Amani dreams is possible? I liked Mirage on the whole. The cultural details infused into this science fiction story were a welcome touch, and something I really enjoyed. I also liked the settings, and found the characters were promising (if a little underdeveloped for my taste). But what prevented me from really falling in love with this one was the way the tropes were tackled, as they were written in a way that didn’t personally appeal to me. That being said, despite my reservations, I’m still mildly curious about where Daud will take the story in the next novel. If you’re looking for a solidly written sci-fi YA read that’s easy to devour, Mirage would definitely be a good choice.
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I received a copy of this book for a fair and honest review. I read the description of this book and I wanted it so bad. I wanted to see her go on an adventure, but what does happened to her is a lot for one person to take on. Forced to be the body double for a princess who is hated by her people for she in the ruler of an invading race and she has taken the prince of the moon captive. Amani is going through a ceremony when she is taken away and she is forced to undergo training and that includes spending time with the princess and the captive prince. There is fear of assassination. Now all Amani wants to do is go home now that the glimmer of the palace life is starting to fade. It is a really good read. Looking forward to more in this series.
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I went in this book not quite knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised! I loved it!

I listened to most of this book as an Audiobook, and I highly recommend it. This is one of those books where I know I would have pronounced the names and places much different if I read them first. I really enjoyed hearing the book read with the pronunciation the author intended for the characters and places.

I have only recently started listening to audiobooks. This was only the 3rd or 4th one I've listened to, and I enjoyed it very much. I especially love that I can read while driving now, something you should never do without an audiobook.

This book is really well written! The author did an excellent job at world building and character development, and the plot was very unique.

Although this book is set on a different planet, much of the book was inspired by Moroccan culture. This was awesome! I love when YA fantasy books incorporate different cultures, even if they are set on other planets!

The only thing that irked me just a little about this book was how easily Amani seems to settle into her new life and doesn't seem to be taking her situation as seriously as she should be. She is supposed to be in danger throughout the whole book, and it seems like she forgets that quite a bit. This could be a combination of her personality and how young she is, but I still expected her at several points during the book to stop and consider how much danger she is in.

I still really enjoyed reading this book, though! I definitely recommend it!

The ending left me asking a whole bunch of questions, so I will definitely check out book #2 when it comes out!

Book # 2, Court of Lions, is listed on GoodReads. It says it will be released sometime this year but doesn't say when.
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"You are not defined by the men in your life, no matter how powerful."

Mirage was definitely not what I was expecting--but not in a bad way! I was looking forward to reading a high-stakes survival story with lots of action and rebellion (I was totally imagining a fantasy version of The Hunger Games), but it was more along the lines of The Wrath and the Dawn with its slower pacing and intense focus on the romance.

Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing (!!!). The slow paved the way for some fantastic, in-depth character development. Amani, our fierce heroine, is an indigenous woman who's kidnapped and forced to work as the princess's body double. She starts off scared and wary, but eventually turns into an empowered woman who wants to save her people and preserve her culture.

Then we have the actual princess, Maram, who is even more intriguing. She's technically the villain, but she has an incredibly interesting backstory that will make you want to understand her more. She's mean and selfish, but for a reason; she's not one of the villains who are bad just for the sake of having a villain to hate.

This book does also have a romance, although one that is very much unnecessary. It's between Amani and Idris, who is Maram's betrothed. It's very sweet and soft, but I personally hoped for a more exciting romance between Amani and Maram. Idris just seemed a little flat for me, and I couldn't bring myself to really care for his character, no matter how kind and charming he was.

Mirage doesn't really have a lot going on, so if you're an action-seeker like me, this aspect may disappoint you. BUT! This book wins at world-building! Daud's writing is so elegant and intricate, and it definitely makes for an amazing and luscious world. Of course, this also led me to be occasionally confused by the backstories and politics, but that just be my fish brain going haywire again.

In short, I'd recommend Mirage for people looking for a strong heroine who they can look up to, a villain with actual depth, seductive world-building, and a very feminist story. If you're okay with a slower book and not a lot of action, be sure to give this book a try!
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was absolutely blown away by this gorgeous cake-slice of a book. (Brownie slice? I don't even like cake.) The cover may lead you to think it's fantasy, but don't be fooled--this is a far-future science fiction adventure rife with politics, petulant princesses, and forbidden romance. It all starts with Amari, whose home planet has been long under the dominion of off-world conquerors. Their writing and religion is policed. Their towns are rife with robot guards. They are poor and beleaguered. And it all comes to a head when, the day she is to receive her coming-of-age tattoos, Amari's town is raided and she is captured by creepy robot guards and brought to the Vathek citadel. To become a body double for the hated princess Maram. From there, it really kicks off into a twisty thrill ride of intrigue, deception, and steamy slow burn romance.

Morocco - In Space! 

The first thing I love about the book is the politics. Instead of your usual space battles and laser blasters, this is a much more subtle sci-fi, where the frameworks of colonialism and occupation have been abstracted to a solar system scale. Somaiya has created a solar empire woven with its own elaborate history and culture--and much of what we get is from the conquered culture of Amari's homeland. There is food, poetry, religion, traditions. Even though Amari is ripped away from it pretty quickly, Somaiya weaves it into Amari's interactions with the Vathek people.

In a sci-fi landscape heavily dominated by Romanesque empires and made-up aliens, it was refreshing to see a non-Western take on intergalactic living. Much of the book focuses on Amari's understanding of the ruthlessness of the Vathek occupiers, and her growing understanding of how much dissent and deception lurks even within their own ranks. There are secrets, galas, exiled grandmas, and layers upon layers of political strife that kept up my interest. I only wish we'd gotten more of Amari's transformation, because it's basically time-warped off screen and it seems a little shocking that she could so perfectly be Maram after a month of training.

Romeo and Juliet Meets FaceOff (jk) 

The sci-fi is much lighter in this book compared to others, because it's the relationships that really shine. The first is Amari and Maram. Maram starts out as a ruthless brat with a chip on her shoulder, because half of her blood comes from Amari's people and she's often shunned by Vathek purists. Hence why everyone wants to kill her. Instead of keeping Maram as a cardboard adversary, Somaiya really delves into her motivations. We see the broken girl behind the armor. We see how Amari's kindness and persistence begin to break down Maram's walls, and how something almost sisterly grows between them. We also see how hard it is for Maram to let go of her narcissism and ruthlessness in a world where she needs claws.

Then there's Idris. Oh, Idris! He's a hot-as-hell, smooth talking prince betrothed to Maram. She likes him because he's actually nice to her. Amari likes him because he's, well, did I mention hot and smooth? Amari gives up her secret to him a little too quickly, but luckily he turns out to be no friend to the Vathek overlords. Their relationship is a slow one, building from a tenuous alliance into a lattice of brief glances, accidental touches, and mutual respect. And banter. Did I mention banter?

Dihya, Give Me More 

There are certainly hitches to the book. The beginning is choppy, and Amari gets a little too lucky in revealing herself to people who--surprise!--don't actually want her dead. However, Somaiya eases a lot of the rough patches with her writing. There's a lyricism about it without being flowery, and a sharpness to her dialogue and exposition that made me eager to turn page after page. It's surprisingly quick-moving, and by the time you get to the end, you're panting for the next installment. Amari, Maram, and Idris are all such complex, believable characters that, no matter what hangups there are in the plot, I was always 100% invested in their story. MIRAGE is an absolute gem in a world of cold, clinical sci-fi. Even readers who hesitate to enter into space stories should check it out.
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Rebels, resistance, and the struggle against colonialism - it felt like Mirage had it all. I picked up this widely anticipated debut expecting a fast-paced science fiction novel that posed important questions about culture and self-identity. That’s not quite what I got. 

Based on Moroccan history and culture, Mirage follows Amani, whose home planet Andala has been colonised by the Vath. She is kidnapped from her village and forced to serve the Imperial Princess Maram, and act as her body double. Confined to the palace, Amani forms bonds with Maram’s fiance, Idris, and discovers that she may not be as isolated as she previously thought. 

There are many aspects of the novel that were extremely well done. The relationships between the characters were complicated and intense, especially between Amani and Maram. It was fascinating to watch a semi-sisterhood develop, even though both women are aware of their families’ violent history. Amani’s ability to empathise with Maram and her distance from her culture was fascinating to read, and definitely one of the high points of the novel for me. 

I also think that Daud drew an extremely realistic portrait of living under colonial rule. Amani’s language and culture are stamped out, and the marks that are tattooed on her face to denote her family’s heritage are erased. The way she clings to ancient poetry, the last remnants of her family and culture, is very moving and I think it will resonate with many readers. 

However, the novel relied heavily on character development rather than plot. Although I greatly enjoyed the characters, I felt that the lack of plot made the pace much slower than it should have been. Although we are told that Amani’s life is in danger, it never feels as though she is in a high-stakes situation, even when she survives an attempt on her life. Even this scene felt slow and character-driven, and when it ended it was quite the anti-climax. 

I also felt that the emphasis on the romance between Idris and Amani was unnecessary. Idris had the potential to be an extremely interesting character - an Andalaan forced to marry the Imperial Princess to secure the Vath’s colonial rule. Unfortunately, I felt that he was under-developed and pushed into the love interest role. 

Overall, I feel like this is a good debut novel, although it does have its problems. I probably will read the sequel, Court of Lions, in the hopes that Daud improves with her next book. However, I don’t think my expectations will be as high. 

CW: abuse, violence, trauma, torture
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Book 8 of 2019: Mirage by Somaiya Daud


Mirage by Somaiya Daud is absolutely captivating. This science fiction YA is about Amani who dreams of the past and poetry while living on a planet occupied by the Vatheks. She is whisked away at her coming of age ceremony and forced into serving as body double for the cruel reclusive princess Maram. Resistance, intrigue and romance result. So, all my favorite things to read about. 

The audiobook is narrated by Rasha Zamamiri who does her job to perfection. I would absolutely say if you have the opportunity listen to the audiobook. irage by Somaiya Daud is absolutely captivating. This science fiction YA is about Amani who dreams of the past and poetry while living on a planet occupied by the Vatheks. She is whisked away at her coming of age ceremony and forced into serving as body double for the cruel reclusive princess Maram. Resistance, intrigue and romance result. So, all my favorite things to read about. 

The audiobook is narrated by Rasha Zamamiri who does her job to perfection. I would absolutely say if you have the opportunity listen to the audiobook.
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I'm a huge fan of YA fantasy and was excited to read this debut. But the pacing was slow and the romance underdeveloped. I didn't finish this book so I won't be rating it on Goodreads or Amazon.
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Okay. To preface: this is not a bad book. This is a good book. In some ways, in fact, it's great. I just want to stress this because my review might seem overly critical, but most of my reasons are really all about me and my tastes, which seem to be changing. 

So what is this book about? Well, the Goodreads summary does a pretty good job explaining about 50% of the book (which is part of the problem, but I'll get to it later). So, Amani is Princess Maram's body double, she predictably falls in instalove with the Maram's fiance, and she predictably decides to spy for the rebellion. That's pretty much it (also part of the problem, but again, later).

Right, so, first, let me talk about what I loved. First, the North African culture. Y'all. Y'ALL. I have NEVER seen North African culture in a YA fantasy. I mean, yes, I'm Egyptian and not Moroccan and those two things are waaaaay more different than most people think but I still recognized a lot of stuff and it just filled me with joy to be reading about food and words and customs I was familiar with. I loved how the author played around with fantasy and reality and how she adapted Morocco's Amazigh culture. Like. You barely see vague Arab/Middle Eastern culture represented, let alone specific Amazigh things like their tradition of tattooing their faces. Loved that. And I loved how the author talked about colonialism and its effects. 

Second, the writing. The writing is what initially drew me in. See, I hadn't planned on reading this book now at all. But I saw someone on here review it and I thought I'd just see how it starts and I was hooked by the writing, which was really good. It's very descriptive without overdoing anything and it's just the right amount of formal without being stilted. Third, I loved the relationship between Maram and Amani. I thought it was a really fascinating dynamic they had going on especially as they started to become friends. Whenever they had a scene together I was hooked.

Okay, now for the not so great. 

First, this was boring. Like, really boring. Remember how I said the summary explains 50% of the book? Yeah. It's really slow. Barely anything actually happens in this book. Amani only meets the rebels at the 51% mark. It's just endless stretches of nothing happening, then Maram attending a party or something as Maram, and then nothing again. It was boring, and it was repetitive. By the 30% mark I was struggling to get through it. I just wasn't interested. Part of that is because the characters weren't that interesting. Maram is fascinating - I kind of wish we'd had the story from her perspective, actually. Amani is fine, but I didn't get strong vibes off her, and Idris is suuuuuuuper dull. He serves no purpose. He may as well not have existed.

Which brings me to my second point. The instalove. So, I don't actually hate romance. It might seem like I do, but I don't. I've been known to swoon over well-done romances. But this felt very much like an Inexplicable Heterosexual Romance shoehorned into an otherwise decent story for no reason at all. The first time Amani meets Idris she finds him handsome and charming, the second time they're together they make out, and the third time they're declaring their love for one another? It was dramatic and boring and predictable and it did not need to be there. Every scene these two had together was boring. Amani's interactions with literally every other character were so much more interesting. 

Third, okay, I'm just gonna say it: the setting of this book is fucking weird. I don't get it. So, they're in space...there's galaxies and spaceships and androids, somehow...but they still live like it's Olden Times? What? I feel like the author was going for a Firefly-type vibe here, but it didn't work for me at all. I would start to find my groove somewhere and then the story would drove a word like "droid" or "holoreel" and it would take me right back out. It was so jarring and inconsistent. It felt like the technology that was included was just included to make certain things more convenient for the plot. I don't understand why this couldn't have just been set in Olden Times and left at that. I would have liked it way more. This way it just feels gimmicky, because the whole space/galaxy thing doesn't really come in except when the plot needs a particular technology. It's not even clear how long these people have lived here or what existed before these planets or where exactly they came from.

Finally, and here's where this review gets a lot more personal, I'm just so over this type of YA fantasy plot. I keep seeing it recycled over and over again. Country is conquered/a people are discriminated against, MC joins rebels and fights conquerors. It's been done to death. And, I mean, that's not this book's fault. Not at all. Like I said, I do think it's a good book, and, like Laura Sebastian's Ash Princess, it does the job it's meant to do, and I know there will be a lot of people who will love it. I totally get that. I might have loved it too, if I had read it in, say, 2015. But at this point, I've read this plot SO many times, with little to no new variations, that I'm just tired of it, and all the inevitable tropes that come along with it. Again, not the book's fault, and I highly recommend this to people who still do love this sort of YA fantasy, but at this point I think it's just not for me.
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Amani is a dreamer, she has a passion for poetry and desires adventure. Unfortunately for Amani the adventure she gets is not what she anticipated, due to her remarkable resemblance to the Vathek Princess Maram she is taken from her family to be the princesses body double. Her family is at risk if she can not fool everyone into thinking she is the actual princess she finds enjoyment at the splendor of the palace and in the company of Maram's fiancé. Despite the cold demeanor of Maram at their introduction her own struggles bring motive and a dynamic to her character. 
Although this is a sci fi setting it has a stronger fantasy element with the occupation of the Vathek empire on Andala and a rebellion that wants to drive the Vathek empire out. Amani is caught up in the middle of the turmoil and she gains an independence from her captors.

Filled with rich Moroccan inspired culture and the slightest elements of sci fi this was an enjoyable read overall and the rest of the series will hopefully provide more world building and action as the rebellion fights back.
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Born on one of the isolated moons of the Vathek Empire, 18-year-old Amani belongs to a race of conquered people. During her coming-of-age ceremony, she is kidnapped by drones of the Empire and taken to the royal palace. While a captive there, Amani discovers that she is identical in physical features to the Vathek Princess Maram, whom she was to serve as a body double in the event of assassination attempts. As Amani attempts to mimic the Princess's every mannerism, she can't help but marvel at the palace's beauty in spite of the brewing violence simmering beneath all the finery.   

Let me start by saying that Mirage is rich in lore and vivid mythology. If you love that type of story depth, I think you'll enjoy the rich world building and mythology developed in Mirage. If you are looking for a YA science fiction novel as Mirage is marketed to be, Mirage is probably not what you should be searching for. While Mirage does incorporate some mentions of drones, space travel, and star systems into the story, there really isn't any purpose behind their use in the overall story. Drones are mere substitutions for imperial troops capable of facial recognition. Space travel is just a method to go from a remote location to another remote location. If Mirage had taken place in a fantasy setting with imperial troops and carriages, the story could still have been the same. Simply including these technological elements doesn't make a story science fiction, because a huge portion of a good science fiction story is the pervasiveness of such technology into the character's life and the questions of morality and philosophy that arises with said technology. In Mirage, these technological elements simply sit in the backdrop until the plot needs them. 

But I'm sure you'd much prefer to hear why you should give this story a chance - because there is so much more Mirage is offering in terms of writing and characters.

The story itself flows very lyrically. We follow the story of a dreamy and just came-of-age Amani as she is taken from her home world and then tortured into serving as a body double for Maram, the cruel half Vathek, half Kushaila princess. As the story progresses, more of the rich Kushaila history is revealed and Amani needs to figure out how to best save herself and those she loves - and most importantly, where her true loyalty lies. 

Overall, Mirage has a lot going for it. I love the lushness of the lore behind Mirage - the poetry, the music, the folklores, the face paint, the fashion, and the anecdotes of famous historical legends. Put together, the world of the Kushaila is very rich and culturally powerful even to those conquered. As a reader, that lore accounts for a huge amount of the writing and the strength and virtue of the main character, Amani. She encapsulates both the purity and the ideals that are at the heart of her culture. 

But do be aware that there is a considerable black-and-white portrayal of the Vathek culture that is very one-sided and typical of an enemy race in fantasy. In short, Kushaila is depicted to be beautiful, revered, worthy to be cherished culture, but Vathek is depicted to be the empty, evil, superficial, villainous culture. Hopefully, in future volumes, this rather black-and-white depiction between the cultures can be balanced out to add more emotional depth and layers of grey.

From this first volume, there are three developing characters: Amani, Maram, and Idris.

Amani - The point of view character who was taking from her world and forced to serve as Princess Maram's body double. A dreamer and a romantic, she wonders where her place should be in a world where she belongs to a conquered race.

Idris - Princess Maram's betrothed but, shares the same ethnicity as Amani and ends up falling for Amani.

Maram - Reputed to be cruel, vicious, and powerful, Maram has a large amount of enemies who watch her every move.

Although Amani is the point of view character, I don't find her half as interesting as the cruel and morally ambiguous half Vathek, half Kushaila Princess Maram, who I think is the more multi-dimensional character out of the three. I'm dying to know which direction the author is planning on taking Maram. 
While I'm not completely convinced of the direction this series is heading in, I do love the rich writing style and will look forward to the next book in the series.

Story:  3* Stars
Writing:  5* Stars
Characters:  4* Stars
Enjoyability:  4* Stars

Notes: Many thanks to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for providing a copy of this book.
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A sci-fi YA novel, the first in a trilogy. Amani is a teen girl in a poor family from a small farming village, a member of an oppressed people, their world recently conquered by spacefaring outsiders. She's in the middle of her coming-of-age ceremony when she's abducted by the empire's guards. This act at first seems inexplicable, but only until Amani meets Princess Maram, heir to the ruler of the world; the two girls look exactly alike, and Amani is intended to be Maram's body-double in the case of assassination attempts. Amani succeeds in learning to walk, talk, and behave like Maram, but matters are complicated when she meets Maram's fiance, and she and he find themselves falling genuinely in love, unlike his politically motivated betrothal with Maram. A subplot sees Amani agreeing to spy for the very rebels who would like to get rid of Maram, forcing Amani to choose between her family's people and the angry, isolated princess she's beginning to care for.

I was excited for this book. I love reading about court intrigues and behind-the-scenes politicking, and Daud bases her worldbuilding on Moroccan and Islamic mythology, architecture, language, and history, which is a nice change from the usual European-inspired setting. Unfortunately the reality didn't live up to my expectations. There's not really any court intrigues at all, since Amani is too isolated and powerless to influence decisions, and the potentially-fascinating process of her transformation from village girl to princess is mostly skipped over. Instead the majority of the plot is focused on her relationship with Maram's fiance and, sorry, but he's just not that interesting, and their love story is the sort of thing you can find in a thousand other YA novels. 

Mirage isn't a bad book, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about it. I'm not invested enough to want to read the sequels. 

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Everyone Amani knows is struggling to survive under a brutal occupation by the Vathek Empire, they are punished for the slightest thing, their culture is slowly being stripped from them and they have become little more than slaves who work hard only to have their crops and produce taken from them by the Vathek elite. Life is hard and although Amani has always dreamed of adventure the last thing she ever wanted was to be forced away from her family and taken to the Vathek capital. It's only when she arrives at the palace that she realises why she was taken, Amani is a perfect double for the Vathek princess and she is there to take over Maram's public appearances. Maram is extremely disliked even among her own people and in constant danger so Amani is going to be the one who takes all the risks putting her own life on the line to protect Maram. So now Amani must learn to mimic her enemy and all it will take is one tiny slip up and her life will be forfeit.

Mirage is a beautifully written debut by Somaiya Daud, the Moroccan inspired setting is rich in detail and described so well you'll feel like you're actually there. The story itself is a fairly slow paced one but with writing this lovely that really doesn't matter and I enjoyed getting the chance to really get to know the characters well. It's very easy to relate to Amani but I was surprised at how interesting Maram's character is too. She's a very angry and bitter girl who has a mean streak a mile wide and I'm never going to be rooting for her as a hero but she's far more complex than most bad guys and the slowly building alliance between her and Amani was really interesting to see. Then you have Idris, Maram's fiancé, whom Amani is forced to spend a lot of time with at public appearances. There seems to be the start of a slow build romance there but he has his own motives for everything he does so it's hard to tell what the outcome will be.

I really enjoyed this story and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where Somaiya Daud takes things throughout the rest of the series.
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MIRAGE was a really enjoyable read!

1. I felt like this read more like fantasy, not sci-fi. And that's a good thing, in my opinion! I loved that it was based in space / on planets, but didn't feel like a huge space fic. 

2. The relationships in this are lovely. I really grew to care about Maram and Amani, and I loved that a "sister" bond formed between those. Idris grew on me, although it took a little while.

3. The first chapter / the prologue confused the heck out of me. I didn't feel like it connected very well with the rest of the story.
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This was a great read! Poor villager Amani becomes a stand in for the hated Vathek princess. During that time she learns about palace life and falls in love with the prince. 

It was a quick read, and kept this reader engaged. I can't wait for the follow-up. I will be recommending this book to my students. 

Thank you for the advanced copy.
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