“The blood never dies. The blood never forgets”: Mirage by Somaiya Daud
By: Alison Norquist / Arab America Contributing Writer
Andalan was once a peaceful solar system, the main planet’s moons served as terraformed colonies where farmers and hunters could continue to survive as the population thrived. Over ten years before the start of Amani’s story, the Vath, an alien and cruel race of colonizers, settled the Andalan system.
Amani, a 16-year-old girl who lives on the Andalan moon Cadiz, is about to receive her daan. The ceremonial tattoos, which signal her becoming an adult in the eyes of her people, were designed especially for her by her parents. After receiving her tattoos, the night continues with the festivities of dancing and music. That is until Vathek Imperial droids raid the celebration and take her away.
Taken to the now overthrown palace on Andalan, Amani is faced with not only the cruel Vath High Nobility but also the half-Vath princess, Maram. Upon seeing Maram’s face for the first time, it is clear now why she was taken from her home: She is to be the body double for the second-most hated person on the planet.
Stripped of her daan, surgically altered to be the copy of the princess, and tortured into performing Maram, Amani continues to find hope that she will one day be able to return home to her family. Until then, she is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that she survives the scrutiny of her captors.
Upon her debut as Maram’s double, Amani is introduced to Idris, Maram’s betrothed and one of the few surviving members of the Andalan royal family. Once he discovers her secret, the two begin to not only bond over their shared enslavement at the hands of the Vath royalty but also begin to fall in love. In the few moments she is allowed to have with Idris alone while on assignment, Amani finds true happiness and a sense of the home she longs for.
After spending time with Amani, Maram begins to warm to her, allowing herself small moments of vulnerability to show that she is not the Vathek princess the Vath hope for nor is she the Andalan that the rebels wish for. She is hated by both factions of people, torn between her own torture at the hands of her colonizing father and the wish to be closer to her deceased mother’s people. Amani begins to feel for her, and even calls herself Maram’s older sister as a reassurance.
When, after bonding with Maram and joining the rebel forces, Amani learns of a plot to assassinate the princess at her Inheritance Confirmation, Amani insists to go in her place for fear that something may happen to her. Can she contact the rebel leader and assassin in time to save her own life? Should she die, what will happen to Idris and Maram?
Daud’s debut novel keeps the reader gripped from the very beginning. This Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel gives readers exactly what they want at every turn without being predictable and watered down. The inclusion of Andalan poetry and architecture draws significant influence from Daud’s Arab heritage while still creating a world entirely on its own. The religious elements are not overbearing to the story, but rather help to weave a rich, woman-driven narrative that is empowering and feminine. Fans of the sort of juxtaposition of rural, ancient life and technology of franchises like Star Wars or Firefly will find a familiar sense of surrounding without the fetishization of Arab culture and persons. Instead, Daud celebrates her cultural heritage while reminding readers of the very real historical events that have happened to MENA countries since the beginning of European colonization.
About the Author
Somaiya Daud is the author of Mirage and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington in English literature. A former bookseller in the children’s department at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., now she writes and teaches full-time.
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