Books by Muslim Authors, Fiction Books, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

Mirage by Somaiya Daud – Book Review

Ever since I heard about Mirage I knew I had to read it and that I would love it. And it’s safe to say it did not disappoint! I devoured this book in two evenings and I was up late into the night because I had to read just one more chapter. I am already dying in anticipation of book two.

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Rating: 4.5/5

So if you haven’t heard of Mirage then here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.
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.

Mirage is a diverse sci-fi fantasy story which is inspired by Moroccan culture. I found this world so original and fresh and I loved the worldbuilding so much! It was so nice to the Moroccan heritage and culture incorporated into the story. The worldbuilding is so intricate and done so well. It was so nice to see a world which is original especially in a sci-fi setting, the cultures of both the Vathek (oppressors) and Kushaila (oppressed) and their power dynamics are so intriguing and well written.

The characters are also so well written and fleshed out. They are complex and interesting to read about and have great character development. Amani is smart and sassy but she learns to be diplomatic and manage tense political alliances. She is brave but also shows vulnerability and admits she is afraid. I loved that we are shown that she is afraid but still persists in her goal.

Maram is initially shown as cold, abrasive and arrogant but we soon learn that there is more than meets the eye. I loved how she develops and we get a deeper look at what she is truly like and we see that she has grown up in a difficult situation and she is more vulnerable than she allows to be seen.

Idris is my new book boyfriend! I adore him even though we don’t get to see a lot of him what we do see is a young man who despite having to live among those who murdered his family is still kind and compassionate. He is very diplomatic and smart and knows how to play the long. He is also fun and charming and shows a different side to him when he learns who Amani is.

I loved seeing the relationships develop between Amani and Idris and Amani and Maram. They were complex and realistic and I am looking forward to seeing more of them and how their relationships develop in the next book. The side characters who we see for short periods are also well written and are all interesting to read about.

I also loved the Arabic poetry incorporated into the story and that it was not only an important part of Amani’s and Idris’ culture but also important to the story. It also gave us a glimpse of how the Kushaila culture was before the Vathek came and destroyed most of it in the war.

One of the aspects of the story that I found really interesting was how prejudice against a group of people can lead to the oppression of them. But also that by actually learning about the culture and way of life can help to overcome the prejudice. This was something I saw as Amani’s and Maram’s relationship developed and they started to become friends.

The story itself was well rounded and had a full arc as well as setting up a larger plot to continue in the next book. I really liked this as normally we are left on a cliffhanger just as the plot starts to develop in the first book.

I highly recommend reading this book! It was wonderfully written and left me wanting more! It was also so wonderful to see diverse cultures and the Moroccan heritage, as it’s not something we usually see in books. I am really looking forward to continuing the story.

Fiction Books, YA Books

Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh ARC Review

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Rating: 4.5/5

Blurb from goodreads:
After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice–to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.
With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and the very safety of the empire.

I was sent an ARC of Smoke in the Sun from the publishers Hodder and Stoughton in exchange for an honest review.

Ever since I read The Wrath and the Dawn duology, Renee Ahdieh has become an auto buy author for me! So When Flame in the Mist came out I was so excited to read it! Especially when I heard that it was a loose Mulan retelling! Mulan is one of my all time favourite Disney films so I went into that book with high expectations and I was not disappointed! I have been eagerly awaiting the release for Smoke in the Sun ever since and when I found out my request to get this ARC was approved I literally squealed with joy! And let me tell you, Smoke in the Sun was even better than Flame in the Mist!

Before reading the ARC I also read both short stories that Renee Ahdieh published. Okami and Yumi were both great short stories and I loved seeing things from their POV. They were both set in between Flame in the Mist and Smoke and the Sun. I would definitely recommend reading both!

So Smoke in the Sun was a slightly different story in the sense that Flame in the Mist had a lot more action whereas there is a lot more of political intrigue pushing the story forward in the second book. We get to see more of the nobility including the new Emperor Roku and his half brother Prince Raidan. They have great development throughout the book and actually turn out to be much more complex than I thought they would be initially. We also get to see the way the Imperial Court works, with women having their own rules and hierarchy.

Some of my favourite parts were the strong female characters, not only is Mariko a badass but she has other women around her who are just as strong but the best part was that they helped and supported each other. I loved seeing women empower women instead of the pettiness we sometimes see amongst female characters. I really loved the female empowerment that was woven throughout the story and how even though the women were considered less, they still made their voices heard.

Okay, so I thought while reading The Wrath and the Dawn, that Shahrzad was a badass but I adored Mariko just as much! Mariko is strong, independent, opinionated and smart but she has vulnerabilities and she has flaws and she knew them. She battled with them to overcome them. She loved Okami but she didn’t let that cloud her judgement for what needed to be done for the greater good. It made her so relatable and such a great complex, well rounded character.

In fact all the characters despite their individual strengths had flaws and I loved that about them. They weren’t just these invincible, perfect people. They were real people and it made the story just that much more amazing to see characters like that. I especially loved the character development of Okami and Prince Raidan.

Of course I have to mention Renee Ahdieh’s writing. I love her writing style, her vivid descriptions meant I could really picture what was going on as the story progressed.

The story itself was full of political intrigue and suspense with all the characters having to make tough decisions to ensure the safety of the people. Family ties and family loyalty is tested, not only between the Emperor and the Prince but also between Mariko and Kenshin and Yumi and her brother. We see how power can make people think they are above everything and make them cruel.

The only thing I would say is that I felt the ending happened too quickly, I wish there had been a few more pages to that climax even though I loved the way it ended, if there had been a few more pages it wouldn’t have felt so sudden.

The ending of the book was bitter sweet for me. I loved how the story ended but it also means that I won’t get to see more of Mariko and Okami and all the other characters I grew to love throughout this duology.

So this book was such a great read and one of my most anticipated books this year and it certainly did not disappoint!

This book is releasing on 7th June so there is not long to wait!

Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me this ARC.