Abducted from her small village, Amani finds that her survival depends on being the perfect body double to an arrogant and cruel princess.
Amani lives with her family in an impoverished village on Cadiz, a moon of the planet Andala that has been occupied by the Vathek Empire. At her coming-of-age ceremony she is violently stolen away to the imperial palace, Ziyaana, where she is shocked to find that she looks exactly like the princess Maram vak Mathis, known to be as cruel and ruthless as her Vathek father but with the visage of her Kushaila mother. In response to increased rebel attacks, Amani is groomed as a body double and must navigate the complexities of court, including the charms of Maram’s fiance, Idris. Daud’s debut, set in a Moroccan proxy world, addresses colonialism, appropriation, suppression, and erasure, along with orientalist tropes. Readers may recognize a possible reference to William Beckford’s gothic orientalist novel Vathek, used to describe invading colonizers. In addition to a cast of characters of color, Daud also introduces concepts specific to the Indigenous Amazigh of Northwest Africa, including the warrior queen Dihya, who serves as a symbol of feminism and anti-colonialism.
Though the machinations of politics and identity create a slowly burning narrative, readers will appreciate the rich world and prose built by a much-needed diverse voice. (Science fiction. 13-adult)