I was a little wary going into Mirage. It was advertised as a YA romance set in space, and as the last few books I’ve read set in space started strong and progressively worsened as they went along, I was worried Mirage may not be worth it. Especially having just finished Sarah J. Maas’ Empire of Storms, with its incredible, edge-of-your-seat ending.

Was I wrong? Was it worth it?

YES!

Mirage is a short book – quick chapters and less words on a page than I’m used to – but it intrigued me and its heavy Eastern vibe was incredibly refreshing (although I could have probably used a pronunciation guide for some of it).

The plot is simple. In a star system conquered by the heartless Vathek empire, an eighteen-year-old village girl, Amani, is kidnapped from her home planet, Cadiz. The rules she’s been playing by her entire life has suddenly changed. She’s forced into the role of body double for her doppelgänger, the Princess, Maram, who is hated by the Vathek for being half-Kushaila, and the Kushaila for being half-Vathek. Amani finds a way to adapt and soon manages to befriend the hot-tempered Princess and even falling in love with her fiancé, Idris. Until a trip to the Maram’s grandmother changes the rules once again.

Amani is a fantastic character. Her understanding, her connection to her culture, and her love for her family, all makes her relatable. An easy character to love. And although everything is stolen from her – her parents, her brothers, her friends, her poetry, her laughter – she manages to find a way to feel those things again which is inspiring.

As for Amani and Idris’ relationship, despite it being predictable, you find yourself caring about their romance simply because you want them to find some sliver of happiness between all the horrors they have had to face. Idris, too, is Kushaila, but he has spent the majority of his life with the Vathek, the people who slaughtered his family. Around Amani, he no longer has to wear the mask of his enemies, and she feeds his love for his past and his culture. There’s something genuinely beautiful about that and regardless of how quickly they fall in love, it’s a relationship you, as a reader, get behind very quickly.

But it’s Maram that has me hooked. She’s volatile, but she’s possibly the most vulnerable, insecure person in the narrative, and I’m eager to learn more about her. With where her storyline left off in Mirage, I’m expecting to delve deeper into her character in the next book, Court of Lions (which is expected to be published in 2019). Maram’s father, King Mathis, is also a fascinating character. There was something about him that reminded me of Madoc in Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince and I’m desperate to know more about him and the Vathek. Are they really so black-and-white cruel?

One thing I definitely want to see in the next installation is more perspectives! Mirage is all told from Amani’s point of view and although I loved her character, I want to see the world from the eyes of characters who are forced to shift between personalities their entire lives; namely Maram and Idris.

All in all, Mirage is the reminder we all need; you can never really know a person until you’ve walked in their shoes, and sometimes not even then. Somaiya Daud (can we please just take a moment to gush about how beautiful a name Somaiya is!) has done wonderfully on her debut novel and I cannot wait for the next one. This is definitely a book to read if you’re fans of Sandhya Menon or Tracy Banghart’s Grace and Fury.