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.
When they scan Amani's face, she is whisked away to the palace where she learns that she is nearly identical the princess, Maram, whose father is the Vathek emperor and who had wed Maram's mother as part of the treaty to give him reign of these planets. As someone who is half-Vathak and half-Kushaila, Maram does not fit it anywhere, and many sides are threatening her life. Amani is forced to be the princesses double and attend events where her life may be in danger. Her "training" is brutal, enacted by physical punishment when she does not perform well.
To save her own life, she finds a way to mimic the princess and is sent out to take her place. She must convince everyone, even the princess's Kushaila fiance, who has known her since birth and her father, who is brutally distant. As Amani struggles to find a place in her new life, she must question the risks she is willing to take, what side of history she would like herself to be on and what future she wants to see.
What I loved: This is a really lush fantasy with a world that really comes to life. The politics here are really interesting throughout about Amani, the world, and even Maram. It is easy to get wrapped up in the writing of this book, as it is highly engrossing. I really enjoyed learning about this other world, its religion, peoples, and cultures. Amani is a great main character who has empathy and intelligence that allows her to navigate her life and role really well, and I loved reading her story. This is definitely one that I am eager to continue.
What left me wanting more: As a really small point, the romance seemed pretty fast, but it did build, so I would be curious to see how it matures.
Final verdict: MIRAGE is an engaging and lush YA fantasy that begins a series I am eager to continue. With great characters and strong world-building, this book starts a journey that is worth following. Highly recommend for fans of THE DIABOLIC, THE GUINEVERE DECEPTION, and SORCERY OF THORNS.