So I have been sitting on this review for a while. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to say. It’s even harder to rate when you know you liked it but there were also things you didn’t like. I have a mix of emotions. It’s just…a lot of….hmmmmmmmmm. (Not about that stunning cover though!)
Publisher: Flaitron Books
Pub Date: August 28th, 2018
Price: $24.99 CAD
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.
*I was provided an ARC by the publisher! All opinions are my own!*
I wanted to love this. A Moroccan inspired sci-fi tale of deception and discretion. How amazing does that sound???? Answer: Incredibly amazing. But there is a BUT. I could not love this one. It had so much potential every time I picked it up to read on but it just continued to let me down. Sigh. And yet I still very much enjoyed it!?
What I Liked:
Amani was a fabulous MC. She was fierce and passionate. After being thrust into a strange new world, where her life was on the line every single day, Amani had to learn to adapt. She was headstrong while also very compassionate. She had this love for her culture and religion which I found very admirable. No matter how much the society she was in tried to change her, she held on to her values as best she could. She made mistakes of course and I yelled at her for a bit, but she was definitely an interesting character to follow.
I was also fascinated by Maram….(?) Like I know she starts off as cruel and wicked, but I loved that Daud dug in deep into her character, her flawed past and her fears. She has to deal a lot with the “You are not enough” BS because she is biracial and Daud explores that theme beautifully. She is a character I look forward to reading more about in the next book. You’d think there would be girl on girl hate..but Amani’s relationship to Maram is much more complicated and complex which I loved!!!!
Idris was cool. Definitely swoon worthy, but I think he needed little more character to put him on the book boyfriend list.
It was stunning. Daud spends a lot of the book–and I mean a lot of the book–explaining and describing this world. These planets and moons that are strung together, filled with different kinds of people and cultures. I’m sure the finished copy will have a stunning map to reference all the places that the characters go to! The world is so well drawn out, the messy history is clearly explained and the political motives are starkly stated. I could definitely see the Morrocan influence in this universe, which was absolutely stunning.
The mythology behind the deity in Amani’s world!!!! It was beautiful and I loved the story behind the prophetess. Daud was able to infuse it quite easily into the characters dialogue, so it added to the scene instead of shifting the focus from the characters.
The Spicy Poetry:
I mentioned this in my mini Goodreads review because it just really stuck out to me. Poetry was really important to Amani and her upbringing. It was something that she loved although outlawed and was willing to break many rules to have her chance to read it. And let me tell you, there was this one verse of poetry that was very ummm hot hot hot. Like spicy hot. It had Amani and me blushing, so I laughed just a little.
The romance was meh for me. Personally, I think their feelings developed too quickly. It was not long before the proclamations of love starting coming around. I mean they did have a lot to relate to, but not enough to say the three words! I mean I get it, he’s hot, I would blush too…but the chemistry??? I think a slow burn would have worked much better to add to the drama, tension and danger that Amani was in. Or maybe I’m just a cynic. Frankly I was more interested in Amani’s relationship with Maram, which although unromatnic, was far more exciting!
What I Disliked:
Over 300 pages and most of it is Amani’s inner dialogue. The very beginning was great and I was really looking forward to continuing on and getting to the high stakes…but there were none. All she does for the first half of the book is talk to herself. Character interaction is minimal if not repetitive and when she did interact with someone else it was usually Idris and as I said the declarations of love. This frustrated me. I was getting bored and as much as I love the development of the world, I need something to happen!! Where was the action? The high stakes???
The Sci-Fi-ness was naught, this was Fantasy:
Daud created such a beautiful world, with stunning scenery and elaborate customs…but every now an then this beautiful, fantastical image that I had in my mind would shatter when the random droid appeared. I often forgot that this was a Sci-Fi book and not fantasy. This would have been fine, but the Sci-Fi elements were really not weaved into the world well which I found disappointing. I expected to see the technology up front and center. But instead there was as I mentioned the random droid, the spaceship/pod and the use of the tablet. There was space for more elements. You know…instead of the the game the played be a board game, it could have been holographic/virtual, the doors in the palace could have been sliding doors, the references to the technology in the society could have been used more often to just remind the reader that this is a space opera!
I think the Sci-Fi elements disrupted the story more than add to it. Sorry!
Were there any??? The ending doesn’t count because of course something had to happen since nothing had happened in the previous 250 pages!!!
Overall, I did like this, but I am disappointed. I did not love this book and I was greatly anticipating it. It’s not that it is bad, I was just expecting so, so much more! The characters go through little risks and the plot was very mellow. It was a fast read and the world was beautiful, but I had a hard time staying attached to the story line and there were very few exciting moments. I hope the sequel makes up for much of what I didn’t get in this one.
Rating: 3.75 / 5 Stars
Recommend: Huhhhh. I’m gonna leave it for you to decide. I mean if you like your reads mellow and your characters relatively safe from much harm, then by all means.
Let me know what you think! Are you thinking of picking this book up? Which highly anticipated book has let you down lately?