by Somaiya Daud
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.
It has taken me a long time to sit and write out my thoughts on this novel but let’s start with – why did it take me so long to pick it up??? It had been on my TBR since I first heard about it before it came out, and then I picked up a copy a few months after it came out when it was on sale. And then it sat on my shelf for MONTHS until I finally picked it up last month.
And now I see why everyone loves it so much. The writing is amazing. The prose flows well and catches you and draws you in. The characters are well written and built realistically, and they’re all sorts of shades of grey. The romance is believable and full of pining and angst and it hurts so nicely.
Don’t even get me started on the poetry, because that is just gorgeous and I cannot wait to start designing bookmarks around it. I’m going to do that for sure.
The world building is wonderful. There are so many parallels towards South Asia, so many parallels I could draw to the Islamic faith, and I’m not even Muslim, so I probably missed things. The thing that got me most, though? The parallels to colonialism and the centuries of South Asian culture being stripped down and away and taken from us and used for the colonialists own gain and amusement.
I’m in love with everything in this novel and I cannot wait to read more.