Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo
The worldbuilding in this story was amazing! I loved how Somaiya Daud built up the backstory gradually, allowing the reader to experience the story without getting bogged down by historical details. The different main players each brought their own unique perspective to the story, so that even though the focus was on Amani and Idris, the reader gets to know the others characters in-depth as well, particularly one who is seemingly the villain - Maram, our heroine's kidnapper and look-alike. I am so excited about the journey we are about to go on with this series!
In a world where happiness is rebellion, anything that brings a spark of joy to life is squashed before it can take root. Amani knows this firsthand, having been kidnapped during a coming-of-age ceremony, stripped of her identity, and tortured into serving as the body double of the notoriously cruel Princess Maram vak Mathis. Learning quickly that outward showings of rebellion will lead to more pain, she hides her strong will from the princess and pretends to submit to her plans. But upon meeting the princess' betrothed, Idris ibn Salih, she realizes that pretending has just become more difficult. Idris is the last surviving heir of the old Analaan royal family, and as part of their surrender, his hand has been given to Maram in marriage. But while he appears complacent on the outside, he feels quite differently, and soon Amani and Idris come together in the biggest form of rebellion of them all: love.
Amani was a strong, courageous character who went through a lot in such a short period of time. Her moments of snark and wit made you realize she hadn't given up hope, and her true belief in a better world was evident in each kind action she did. Even her actions toward Maram later on show how inspiring her character was. She is an excellent role model for all ages. Idris was not the focus of the story, but given he was the love interest, I definitely want to touch on his character a bit. His courage was also very impressive, given the situation he found himself in - robbed of his heritage, engaged to the woman whose father killed his family, and forced to pretend that his love for Amani didn't exist. Their love was so heartbreaking and I loved seeing it grow and develop throughout the story. He was truly kind, when a lot of other people would be bitter and cruel as a result of their circumstances. It made me want to see more of him, and I eagerly read hoping to see another glimpse of him in the story.
I eagerly await the next book in the series! I am so impressed by the intricacy of this author's writing, and it's sure to be the start of an inspiring adventure!
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**