ARC Review: C.J.: Mirage / Somaiya Daud - Here Be Moroccan Space Princesses

title: Mirage
author: Somaiya Daud
pages: 352
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5
Genre: Science Fiction
Topics: Colonialism, Political Intrigue, Disguise 

5 lemons - I loved it!

It's Sci Fi, k?  

I 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. 

My thoughts overall

A layered story of political intrigue and forbidden romance, in Daud's lush writing.

Will I read this author again? Yes
Will I continue this series? GIVE IT TO ME NOW 

More Reviews for Mirage  

The Fox's Hideaway - August Mini Reviews
The Quiet Pond - Review of Mirage
Muslim Reads - Review of Mirage

Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.  

1 comment: