This blog was selected to participate in Caffeine Book Tours’ Court of Lions blog tour! You can expect my review of the second book in the series on August 6th, meanwhile I caught up by reading Mirage.
“All may see the stars, but few will see their forebears.”Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Mirage is a fast-paced, fiery and emotionally charged space fantasy very much in the tradition of Star Wars set in a North African proxy world, specifically Moroccan. Amani, who lives with her family in a farm on a moon of planet Andalan, is forcibly taken away after royal droids discover that she is the spitting image of the princess, Maram. She is to be the body double of Maram, essentially putting her own life in the line so that the princess, who hasn’t gained much favor in the eyes of the people, is safe until her reign is certain.
Lost culture is a huge theme in Mirage, Andala has a rich indigenous history that Amani is fighting to protect. Much of its culture is reflected through poetry, which is the main form of literature for Amani’s people. On the other hand, Maram, Vathek on her father’s side and Kushaila on her mother’s, isn’t embraced by either side of her ancestry, which poses a danger for her life each time she has to make a public appearance. Through her we are introduced to a lush world of galactic politics as Amani is turned into Maram and a tentative allyship is formed between them.
This unlikely bond between Maram and Amani was fascinating to read and my favorite part of the book, because even if the trust between them is flighty and tenuous, they both glean so much from each other and in an unexpected turn, Amani is the one who has advantage over Maram in the end. As a result of this relationship being the driving force of the book, I really liked that the emotional core of the story centered female characters and their journeys. And it features women in so many key roles, whether as prophetesses or princesses, so it’s safe to say that it’s a feminist fantasy and does the title justice.
Another thing to love about this book is how it engages in colonial history in a nuanced manner. The author sets out for Mirage to be “a post-colonial response to the racism of the science fiction works of 40s, 60s, and 70s”, which were concerned with colonizing space after conquering all there is on Earth. What do societies which are untampared with, Mirage asks, look like when they get to evolve to achieve space travel, terraforming etc? Because, while yes, there is conquest, much of it is drawn from a recent period of political unrest in Morocco. I highly recommend giving this review by a Moroccan reviewer a read for a discussion of the historical background that fuels Mirage.
All in all, this was a very atmospheric and rewarding read for me. With the way things were wrapped up in the first book, I’m really excited to dive into the sequel.
Hope to see you for the Court of Lions blog tour!