While this book does not have Muslim representation, Somaiya Daud is a Muslim author, and I’m all about supporting Muslim authors.
Blurb from the publisher:
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’ 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.
A Moroccan-inspired sci-fi/fantasy YA that tackles colonialism, rebellion, and identity by a Muslim author? Yes, please.
Let me count the ways I loved this book.
1. It has fantastic world-building.
I was completely immersed in the world of Mirage. Futuristic technologies and old world traditions are tinted with Moroccan inspiration. Droids and buildings with domes that mimic the morning sun coexist with monarchies, ceremony, and flowing robes.
2. It tackles colonialism.
In Mirage, the Vath have colonized Andala. The former queen has gone from being “the queen of a free people, to their freedom fighter, to a prisoner on a faraway moon.” The Vathek king, King Mathis, rules Andala from the Ziyaana, the former seat of Andala’s government.
But Mirage goes beyond representing a colonized world; it explores the complexities of identity that result. Because Princess Maram is half-Vathek and half-Kushaila (a tribe on Andala), she is neither accepted by her father’s pure Vathek side of the family, nor the Kushaila populace, whom she herself despises because of their low status (most are farmers). Maram’s fiancée, Idris, was a member of Andala’s old royalty, but has been raised among the Vath since the rest of his family were assassinated.
3. It has rebellion and resistance.
Amani discovers that there is a rebellion, and she meets freedom fighters who convince her that she is in a unique position to help them. But she learns that standing up for justice comes with a price.
“Even your happiness is rebellion.”
I couldn’t stop myself from speaking. “Happiness may be rebellion, but it won’t win the war.”
4. It represents cultures beautifully.
Amani’s love for everything Kushaila is contagious, including Kushaila poetry.
His voice was strong and even, though hearing the story in Vathekaar was not ideal. Kushaila had a rhythm to it, and the stories were told in verse, so by the end you felt you were hearing a song you’d heard all your life.
5. It is gorgeously written.
This book, despite being a YA complete with tropes and instalove, has a few beautiful literary turns to it as well. The text is full of birds and bird imagery, which fit perfectly in the space between futuristic technologies and old world traditions. Amani’s orientation at the Ziyaana includes an attack by a roc (a huge, fierce bird), while the tesleet, a Kushaila bird, is a symbol of the resistance. Birds in literature can symbolize freedom, but in a story that references space and movement between star systems, flight takes on another meaning as well: access for would-be colonizers. These are just a few of the thoughts the birds in the story brought to mind for me.
If you are interested in a sci-fi/fantasy YA that explores colonialism and identity using a carefully-crafted world, then I highly recommend Mirage. It is the first novel in a trilogy, and you can get a copy here: Flatiron Books | Amazon
Thank you to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an advance copy of this title.