Friday, August 31, 2018

#Review - Rule by Ellen Goodlett #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Rule # 1
Format: E-Galley, 384 pages
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars in this sensational and striking new fantasy from debut author Ellen Goodlett.

Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.
The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options. Zofi, Akeylah, and FloRENcia.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny... to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in the first book of this sensational and striking fantasy duology.

Rule is the first installment in author Ellen Goodlett's Rule duology. The series features three different characters in Zofi, Akeylah, and Florencia aka Ren. In case it wasn't obvious, the story also alternates between the three main characters as well. Do I think this is a knock off of Three Dark Crowns? Nope. Why? These are three stepsisters who have never met until the King's men show up with summons. They didn't grow together. They weren't suddenly separated into different factions. They weren't trained in dangerous arts in order to kill the other two in order to rise to the top. 

Let's break down each character: 

Zofi has spent her entire life traveling across the Reaches as part of a group called Travelers never stopping in one place for long. She's trained in the blood arts which makes the user super fast, stronger, and immune to harm for a short time. She knows her people are hated, and are targeted as though the King wants to rid the Kingdom of an bad stain. It's fair to say that Zofi is the strong female archetype who can fight, use a weapon and in a no-nonsense realization concludes that dawning the crowns means ending the oppression of her people.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach surrounded by brewing insurrection. Everyone in her family uses the Arts, sometimes the Vulgar Arts which allows you to tithe into another person's blood as long as they are in your bloodline.
Akeylah adopted father is an abusive, alcoholic father. Her people are starving, and she’d do anything to escape her family, even accept the invitation of a king not knowing that something she did would come back to haunt her. Unfortunately, it is her secret that we find out to be the most devastating among them.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a ladies’ maid at court.  She knows her way around the place and is basically the information gatherer of the group. She wants out of her lower class status and into the high-life of palace life. She dreams of being a noble herself one day, but being ominously summoned to the king’s courtroom after a misdeed isn’t exactly what she had in mind. Ren's past actions haunt her every time she closes her eyes. She blames one person for her misdeed.

Each girl hides a dangerous secret–the kind that could get her killed for treason. But when the girls are brought before King Andros expecting an execution; they are all told the truth: the king is their father and he has brought them to court to compete for the chance to become his heir. Oh, and he is apparently dying and they are his only living heirs. Being summoned before the King is never a pleasant experience, especially when you're hiding dangerous secrets. Especially when anyone might be the person to expose your darkest secrets.

Not only must Zofi, Ren, & Akeylah compete for their father’s throne, but someone in Kolonya knows the girls’ secrets, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep them from taking the throne. Even going as far as making the women's life a living hell. You have three very different sisters from extremely different backgrounds, classes and worlds (although at times their personalities seem to mush together). By the way, don't ask me to tell you who the villain is. The author has left that doozy for the final book in the duology.

I would have liked this book better were it not for one particular feature that the author seemed eager to toss in the book to try to prove that she is a fan of diversity. One particular character (who shall not be named) falls for the Queen who is married the King in order to bring peace between two warring countries. This character perhaps felt an obligation to said Queen for helping with particular research or whatever. Whatever the point was, the Queen, in essence, cheated on her own husband with someone else. Could the Queen be the actual villain? Hmmmm....

The other part is pure Game of Thrones when you think about it. Here is a King who runs around his kingdom falling for three different women and sewing his wild oats. In turn, these three women have three different daughters but are kept in the dark about their true heritage until the King's men aka Talons, come knocking on their door.  Should I even bother talking about how utterly horrible the cliffhanger ending is? Ok, no, I won't. But, I will say that this isn't the first book this month that has had this type of cliffhanger ending. The only positive is that this is only a duology and the author has to make right what she devastated with that ending!

#Review - Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch #YALit #Thriller #Suspense

Series: Hometown Antihero #1
Format: E-Galley. 352 pages
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense

Pretty Little Liars meets Riverdale in this debut YA mystery from indie-pub favorite

When her FBI agent father is framed for murder, Kylene is forced to move in with her grandfather, back to the small town that turned its back on her, and the boy who betrayed her.

All Ky cares about is clearing her father’s name, but someone won’t let her forget the photo scandal that drove her away two years ago. As the threats gain momentum, Ky finds an unlikely ally in the annoyingly attractive rookie FBI agent sent to keep an eye on her.

Determined to expose the town's hidden skeletons, Ky unwittingly thrusts herself into a much bigger plot. They thought she’d forgive and forget. They’re about to learn they messed with the wrong girl.

Dare You to Lie, by author Amber Lynn Natusch, is the first installment in the authors Hometown Antihero series. Kylene Danner's is your protagonist for this series. Ky didn’t return to her former hometown of Jasperville, Ohio searching for her happily ever after. She came back so that she could right a few wrongs that have been done to herself and to her father FBI Detective Bruce Danners. The second part won't be so easy as she believes. Especially in a town filled with secrets.

Ky's family left Jasperville behind a few years earlier after naked pictures of her were taken at a party and leaked online. The suspects were all football players. Football players who were protected by some powerful people instead of her. One was her ex boyfriend who claims that he had nothing to do with what happened to her. But, if she can get back at the Six who basically destroyed her reputation, it would go a long way towards proving that all of her training was worth something. 

One of the best things about this story is Ky's friendship with several key characters. Ky friendship with Garrett has always been on solid ground, and Garrett is happy that she's back to where she belongs. The second character is Tabby, a girl who moved her from Canada, and whose first impression is one of a girl who needs a little push in order to protect her own reputation and image. The friendship between these three really made the story for me. They were all so sarcastic and funny, but the love was obvious. Tabby fit right in with them. 

The second part is even more puzzling for Ky, especially with those like FBI Agent Dawson believing that her father is guilty and she is wasting her time trying to free him. But, the reality is that Dawson isn't going away. In fact, he was sent to make sure she didn't get into too much trouble which is laudable since he really didn't know who Ky was. Ky refuses to abandon her father to a prison where anyone with a grudge can get to him. Ky is smart, but stubborn. She digs too deep, and finds trouble quickly. She's threatened, and her house is broken into, but she doesn't back down. She can't. Two lives are at stake.

I have read where reviewers have compared Ky to Veronica Mars and that's fair. Veronica was always getting into trouble and sometimes she made some really stupid mistakes. I won't go near comparing this story to Pretty Little Liars since the two are not compatible at all. Alas, I haven't watched Riverdale, so someone who actually has can read this book and see if there is any comparison. I liked the ending well enough but we all know that the first book in a series is the one where secrets are revealed, and the protagonist has to make choices that are often scorned and looked down at. Ky is a fierce character who doesn't take crap from anyone. There is an old saying about walking softly and carrying a large stick or bat or golf club. This is a story that proves the old adage that you really can't trust anyone until you go to war with them.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

#Review - Sadie by Courtney Summers #YALIT #Thrillers

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 320 pages
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense

A gripping novel about the depth of a sister's love; poised to be the next book you won't be able to stop talking about.

A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial—like podcast following the clues she's left behind.

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

"I can't take another dead girl."

Courtney Summers' Sadie is a young adult thriller that takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as we follow the story of Sadie Hunter, a 19-year old young woman whose 13-year old sister Mattie Southern is found dead which leads her to track down the person she believes was responsible. The story is told in a variety of ways, but the most interesting is by radio personality West McCray's, who is urged to research and tell Sadie's story by his boss. The story becomes podcasts called "The Girls."

West picks up on the trail of Sadie thanks to a woman named Mary Beth Foster who was more of a mother to Sadie and her sister Mattie than their own drug addled mother who flew the coup and never thought about what would happen she she left. The question we all need to know is what really happened to Sadie? Sadie's journey is hard to take. No, it's absolutely brutal. Here is a someone whose sister was her entire world. Her mother didn't want her, but Mattie was her pride and joy. Mattie was pretty much hers to take care of when their mother left, and she did exactly that to the point of giving up her own future for her younger sister.

But it wasn't good enough. After Mattie is found dead, Sadie's world shatters to the point where she withdraws from society and goes on a Kill Bill type mission after the man she believes killed her sister. Readers will feel the agony and the determination coming from Sadie's voice. Sadie is as real as it gets. She's in a dark place, and every step she takes, takes her to an even darker place where it's hard to come back from. Sadie knows that there is a good chance she will lose herself forever, and not be able to return to the person she was before Mattie's death.

"I’m going to kill a man. I’m going to steal the light from his eyes. I want to watch it go out." 

Thanks not only to West McCray, but Mary Beth as well, readers will follow Sadie's story step by step as she trails after the supposed killer. It's hard at times not to want to hold Sadie. Especially when she has such a hard time expressing herself without her persistent stutter which everyone has teased her about for years. For me, I was praying. Yes, I pray. I don't have to belong to an organized church in order to pray. McCray puts together bits and pieces of Sadie’s story  through various sources. After nearly giving up, West realizes that he must find Sadie before it’s too late.

"If she dies, she will take the truth with her." 

After reading this story, you will come away with a whole lot of feelings: Heart breaking, shocking, disturbed, angry, sad, and appalled that we still live in a world where girls go missing all the time, and it comes such a non-issue with almost everyone from the media to the police, to the parents who believe their child has become a runaway. Sadie is all but a secondary character in her own life. I don't know the answer to the question. We may never know the answer to the question. If you've never read anything by the author before, this is the absolute perfect time to begin.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

#Review - Feared by Lisa Scottoline #Thrillers #Legal

Series: Rosato & DiNunzio (#6)
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Genre: Fiction / Thrillers / Legal

In Feared, Mary DiNunzio’s ruthless nemesis, lawyer Nick Machiavelli, comes back with a vengeance. Machiavelli aggressively strikes close to the DiNunzio household, attacking Mary’s father and one of their beloved family friends by filing a lawsuit that accuses them of embezzling from the treasury of a local South Philly social club to which they belong. The lawsuit is frivolous, but Machiavelli ups the ante by spreading rumors that support its allegations, muddying the reputation of Mary's father.

The claims shake the DiNunzio clan to its foundations, threatening her father's weakening heart, and Mary steps in to fight back. But Machiavelli is a more than worthy adversary. Then the unthinkable happens, and Mary goes to her own dark side, finding a part of herself that makes her more fearsome than ever before. Is it still a battle between good and evil, when good turns evil? And will Mary be able to find herself, before she loses her soul completely?

Lisa Scottoline's Feared is the Sixth installment in the authors Rosato & DiNunzio series. This is a series that I first started reading when it was called Rosato & Associates. That series reached (11) books before the series changed. Why? Because Mary DiNunzio, the protagonist for this story, was made partner by Bennie Rosato the senior member of the firm. What has changed? Nothing. Not the characters. Not the humor. Not the family dynamics. (Of course I am going to love Mary's family since we are both Italian).

Not the friendships between Mary, Bennie, Anne, and Judy. I love the secondary characters; Anne Murphy, Judy Carrier, Lou Jacobs and Marshal Trow are important cogs to the law firm and it wouldn't be the same without them around. Unfortunately, I have no clue when Judy became full partner since I requested and haven't yet read books 2-5. I'll change that soon! Bennie and Mary have regularly called Rosato & DiNunzio a female law firm. That particular saying has implications in this book.

When three men announce that they intend to sue the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm for reverse sex discrimination—claiming that they were not hired because they were men—Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato are outraged. To make matters worse, their one male employee, John Foxman, intends to resign, claiming that there is some truth to this case. The plaintiffs’ lawyer is Nick Machiavelli, who has already lost to Mary once and is now back with a vengeance —determined not to not only win, but destroy the firm. 

Nick puts the firm through so much nonsense just because he is a sore loser. Sorry not sorry for that particular spoiler. But, it's 100% accurate.  It soon becomes clear that Nick will do anything in his power to achieve his end…even after the case turns deadly. The stakes have never been higher for Mary and her associates as they try to keep Machiavelli at bay, solve a murder, save the law firm they love, and win a huge case that could make or break the law firm. With so much at stake, they could win big, or lose everything they’ve worked for. 

Told with Scottoline's trademark gift for twists, turns, heart, and humanity, this latest thriller asks the question: Is it better to be loved, or feared... The loved or feared aspect of the story is really between two characters: Nick and Mary. Mary is loved by everyone because she has such a huge heart and is willing to take on cases that may seem laughable to anyone else. Mary battles with both Machiavelli and her own pregnancy and her idea of what she will do in the future now that she is expecting her own child. 

Will she continue to be a lawyer, or will she step away and focus on building her own family. Feared, well I already explained what a douche-canoe Nick is. This is a series that has always been set in and around Philadelphia. It is unique, and realistic, and she gets the family dynamics correct. It is the author's trademark that she knows her neighborhoods, and especially the Italians who live in South Philly. I absolutely adore Mary's family, and their extended family as well. One of the dynamics that makes this a must read for me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

#Review - Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire (Urban Fantasy)

Series: October Daye (#12)
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: DAW
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Urban

Things are not okay.

In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. One question remains:

Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.


Seanan McGuire's Night and Silence is the Twelfth installment in the authors October Daye series. As the story opens, things are not going well for October "Toby" Daye and her adopted family. Owing to her mother's latest actions, Toby's family is cracking: her sister's girlfriend Jazz doesn't sleep, and her beloved Tybalt has withdrawn from her and refuses to reach out for help. In order to keep herself from breaking down, Toby, Danny, and Quentin are tasked at hunting down creatures who are not supposed to exist, or be in this world. 

But, nobody could have foreseen what happens next. Her ex-boyfriend Cliff and his new wife Miranda show up on her doorstep with an accusation: daughter Gillian has been kidnapped and they hold Toby responsible. While it's obvious that Toby will investigate, it's utter horse manure that Toby would jeopardize the daughter she has had no contact with since the day she gave Gillian the Changeling's Choice by removing any Fae blood and leaving her 100% human. 

The same choice she was given back in 1959. (Oh, there's a novella called Never Shines the Sun that will explain that to you.) The daughter who has no clue what actually happened to Toby, thanks to her father, that caused her to disappear for 14 years. Who in Faerie has the knowledge that Toby has a human daughter? Of all those who knew, they're either supposed to be dead, or were Elf shot and are supposed to be sleeping for 100 years. Knowing that Toby has more enemies than the President of the US, anyone could be involved. 

After all, it's not easy going through life being known as the King Breaker, or being the daughter of Amandine who put Toby and her friends through hell in the previous installment. It's also not easy being the so called Hero of the Kingdom in the Mists. Whenever Faerie is involved, secrets tend to be revealed, and villains pop up seemingly from beyond the grave. Toby must find Gillian before time runs out or the cost may be too much for everyone involved. She also has to find a way to get through to Tybalt before she loses him forever. 

There are a few things you need to know to better enjoy the story. First, the story takes place soon after the aftermath of what happened to Toby and her crew in Once Broken Faith. You really must read the stories back to back to understand what happened, and why characters like May, Tybalt, Jazz, and yes, even Toby, are struggling to get on with their lives. Especially Tybalt who has basically disappeared from Toby's life.  

Second, there is a novella included in the back of this book. It is called a Suffer a Sea-Change. I read Toby's story first and then the novella to see where in the story this novella takes place. If you've read Night and Silence, you know what happens and where the novella intersects with the main book. It's apparent to me that this is another of the author's story arcs. I wouldn't be surprised if the story continues in the next installment called The Unkindest Tide (2019).

I admit that I loathe Cliff and hope that we, as readers, don't ever have to hear about him again. I will never forgive him for shutting the door, literally, in Toby's face without understanding what happened to her, and then not allowing their daughter to discover the truth. For everything that Cliff did to Toby, the worse was allowing Gillian to believe that she had been abandoned by her own mother. Toby does get some satisfaction in putting him in his place. Can't tell you how happy that made me feel. 

Then there's Miranda who swooped in like a avenging angel to take Toby's family away from her in her absence. There's so much I'd like to say about Miranda, but I can't because it's a major part of several plot lines. One could legitimately say that Toby's blood family is absolutely screwed up, while her adopted family are the ones who have stood by her through many, many, many episodes of Toby ending up bloody, hurt, and almost dead.

Monday, August 27, 2018

#Review - A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna #YALit #SyFy

Series: The Celestial Trilogy# 1
Format: E-Galley, 320 pages
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction / Space Opera

The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabharata. When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to.

The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabharata. When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to.

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back.

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.

Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love. 

"A spark of fire so hot and white that no one will be able to put it out."

A Spark of White Fire, by author Sangu Mandanna, is the first chapter of a major new trilogy with everything you want: complicated family dynamics that could rip the universe asunder, exhilarating action aboard an epic warship, swoony romance that will have readers begging for more. The story itself was pitched as Red Rising meets An Ember in the Ashes. It is a multicultural YA space opera inspired by the Mahabharata. 

The novel follows Esmae, a cursed and forgotten child of an Empire's dethroned Queen, who wants to return to her real family, and finds herself on the wrong side of the war that could destroy kingdoms across the galaxy. Esmae has lived her entire life onboard Wychstar, a spaceship kingdom. Nobody knows her true identity. She's watched over by Amba, the Goddess of War, and is best friends with Prince Rama who she grew up with. She plans on helping her brother Alexei win Titania, the sentient, unbeatable spaceship blessed by the gods.

Esmae, who is much beloved by the Gods & Goddesses, believes that winning Titania will help her win back Kali's throne for her brother Alexi that was stolen by their uncle Elvar and his adopted son Max. To do so, she will have to come out of the shadows, make a once in a lifetime shot at an impossible game where she is the pawn in a warlords game, and reveal her true identity. There's no black and white when it comes to who the villains are. This is a story about two sides of the same family battling for the Kingdom of Kali.

There's a whole lot of gray areas that are slowly revealed and unraveled the further you get into the story itself. Esmae discovers that the uncle who stole her brother's throne isn't entirely evil, nor is his son Max, nor are the people of Kali like Sybilla. Kali is a realm of warriors, myths, & usurpers. Of course, this puts a wrench in her plans as she starts liking her life with them and as she gets to know her brothers Alex and Bear. The one missing piece is the mother who threw away her only daughter.

Esmae is the spark that will tip the scales, but her actions will lead to consequences she can't imagine. The story is filled with plot twists and shocking surprises. This is a universe filled with Gods who may provide weapons, play tricks, grant boons, and level curses but they can't hurt humans or physically interfere or lose their immortality. This is the kind of impeccably put together, sweeping world building and character development that breaks out in the market and changes the conversation.    

Fans of Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes, Amie Kaufman's These Broken Stars, Beth Revis' Across the Universe, & Rhoda Belleza's Empress of a Thousand Skies will enjoy and ask for more. Drawing on the Mahabharata and Indian mythology, Mandanna's trilogy takes the tropes of fate, love, and bargaining with the gods and shoots them to the stars. Fans of mythology and retellings will eat this up.  Book 2 will release in Fall 2019, and Book 3 is slated for Fall 2020.

Friday, August 24, 2018

#Review - Mirage by Somaiya Daud #YALit #Fantasy #SyFy

Series: Mirage # 1
Format: E-Galley, 320 pages
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

Shatter Me meets The Wrath and the Dawn in this epic fantasy inspired by the author’s Moroccan heritage about a poor girl who must become the body double of a princess of a ruthless empire.

In a world 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 home.

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’ fiancĂ©, 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.

"The blood never dies.
The blood never forgets."

Somaiya Daud's Mirage is her debut noel. The story is set in a galaxy known as Mizaal, which has been invaded and colonized by a race called the Valthek Empire. The story features Amani, an 18-year old from Cadiz, one of the moons of the planet Andala. On Amani's 18th birthday, when she is receiving her marks (daan) to indicate her transition to adulthood, Imperial droids appear and spirit her away.

Amani is taken to the royal palace, the Ziyaana, on the planet of Andala where she will be lucky if she ever sees her family again. The next thing Amani knows, she is meeting half-Vathek princess Maram. Amani discovers that she is staring into what is practically her own face. Because of Maram's unpopularity and rebel activity, it has become necessary to have a stand-in at public activities. This is when Amani knows what her crime was, and why she was forcibly taken from her family. 

Amani, after a few alterations, will act as the Princesses double, making public appearances and risking her life as the rebellion strengthens. Amani must learn to perfectly mirror Maram to survive (and perhaps see her family again). This is what her future will be for the near future and there's not a whole lot she can do about it. Or can she? As Amani and Maram learn to understand the other, you wonder if this will be a turning point in both characters lives. 

I found myself quickly hating Maram. There's really not a whole lot to like. She's as brutal as those she deals with on a daily basis. She doesn't have a care in the world for those that she deems below her. Then you have to understand her family, and her expectations, and the fact that there are people all around her who want her not to rise to become the heir of the empire. To the Andalaans, she's a symbol of the oppressors and to the Vath she is impure and not worth to become the heir. 

To make things even more interesting, she is outed to Maram's fiancĂ© Idris who discovers that she is more than just a body double. Amani is a girl who dreamed of a world in which everyone is free and able to live and experience their own cultures through art and poetry. All Amani's life, she has been forced to face a life of oppression by the Vath and their slow erasure of the indigenous cultures, especially the Kushaila poetry that has been used as a rallying cry for rebellion.  

Mirage is a painful true story when it comes to life under colonization. The author does a fairly impressive job in showing the aftermath of Vathek’s colonization and its continued effects on the Andalaan people. From living as second-class citizens in a world that used to be yours to being victims of cultural erasure, there were definitely a lot of parallels to our real world events and history. The author excels at showing the reader people living under harsh rule, living through myth and legend – the background is gorgeously described and multi-layered.

I dare say that the story is more of a science fiction novel with romance included, than a fantasy one. Or, one could say that the story is a science fiction / fantasy mix-up with mythology and romance. After all, when a story is set in space, and you have space travel, it's science fiction. When you have an alien race who colonizes your planet, it becomes science fiction. At the start, Amani seemed a bit naive, but overall she developed into a character who fights for her people and their legacy and their survival. The difference in her maturity from the beginning to the end of the book is vast and I'm hoping for even more character development after the author leaves us hanging by a tightrope waiting to see what happens next.