Exclusive Extract: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

By Sam Bradbury

Posted on August 24, 2018 in Uncategorized with tags

It’s official, Mirage by Somaiya Daud hits the shelves in only 4 days and so we’re here to tide you over with an exclusive extract.

Mirage features Amani, a dreamer and a poet living on an isolated moon. She longs for adventure, but when it comes for her, it’s not what she expected. She is kidnapped and forced to become the body double for the cruel imperial princess, Maram. Featuring gorgeous writing, complex villains, plenty of treachery and just the right amount romance, Mirage already has the YA community buzzing, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

Read the prologue and chapter 1 on Entertainment Weekly here.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud
Chapter 2

Most of our village had set out on the road before sunset, but Aziz, Husnain, and I set out later with a few other families. I’d tucked Husnain’s gift in my pocket, reluctant to part with such a treasure so quickly.

“Amani, don’t ruin the parchment before you even have a chance to read it,” Husnain murmured, low enough that Aziz couldn’t hear.

I glanced over at our eldest brother. Aziz had been born before the occupation. Of the three of us, he was the only one who remembered our lives before then, who’d known our parents outside the shadow. The years under the occupation had forged our brother into steel. He was wise, perhaps wise beyond his years, and reliable. While Husnain jumped before he looked, Aziz watched, relentlessly, as if in the end all the world would surrender its secrets to him. Including his unruly younger siblings.

“I won’t,” I promised Husnain, fighting a grin.

“I should have waited until after to give it to you,” he said, but his grin matched mine.

Outside, the air was eerily silent but for the sound of Vathek probes whizzing overhead, their bright white beams scanning the ground. To our left was the orchard, scorched earth, the air above tinted red with the fumes of the extinguishing canisters the Vath had lobbed at it at the height of the fire.

A few weeks ago there had been three fields side by side— pomegranates and olives to the west, and a field of roses we grew to sell and make perfume facing the east. Now the west orchards looked like a graveyard with a hundred spindly, ashen arms reaching toward a red sky. The rose bushes and the trellises had gone, vaporized in the blaze of the fire. Smoke and red fumes from the extinguishing canisters still rose into the sky. Nothing would grow there now, not for years. I made myself look away. There was nothing to be gained by worrying at the bruise, nothing to be gained from wondering how we would feed ourselves this coming winter, or what we would do for work in the spring.

The fire had been set, they claimed, because of “rebels” in the area. But the only proof the Garda had that rebels sheltered among us was a phrase people said had been carved into the gatehouse.

The blood never dies. The blood never forgets.

It was a phrase from the Book of Dihya— most people believed it was a testament to our endurance and survival. But there were some who believed it meant Massinia might return— that her blood would call her back to the world in one form or another. Whichever meaning you took, rebels had been using it as a rallying cry, now more than ever.

Now the small village of shacks and houses on its outskirts, along with the gatehouses, were rubble. The people who’d lived there, those who’d survived, huddled together around a fire. I felt a pang of guilt looking at them—my family didn’t have much, but our home was still intact, and we wouldn’t go hungry as they would.

I reached into my bag, my hand settling on the bread I’d made that morning for the majority night celebrations. My mother and I had spent hours at the village oven, along with all the other girls celebrating their majority night, making enough bread for the whole village. We had so much— I could afford to spare a few loaves.

Aziz laid a hand on my shoulder and shook his head, as if he knew what I’d planned.

“They’re being watched,” he said, voice low. “The Garda believe the rebels hide among them.”

I swallowed down my anger and looked away.

“It’s difficult,” he said and squeezed my shoulder. “But think of our parents, Amani. What would they do if you were dragged off for giving bread to a rebel?”

I glared at the ground. I knew he was right. He, more than I, knew the cost of being thought one of the rebels. At last, I drew my hand from my bag and let him guide me away, leaving the fields and the refugees behind.

 

***

 

Eventually we reached the old kasbah far beyond the limits of the village. The kasbah was an old building, now one rundown mansion among many rundown houses, overgrown with palm and fig trees. Once it might have belonged to a prosperous family but was now the refuge of farmers and villagers on nights like this. Lights shined out of broken windows, and threads of music rose into the air, mixing with the sound of wind and wildlife. Suspended over the kasbah in the night sky was our mother planet, Andala, hanging like an overripe orange fruit. With such a sight it was easy to forget everything: our poverty, the rule of the Vath, the specter of loss that hovered over our parents every day.

We arrived with enough time to set up the courtyard and get dressed. All the girls who were coming of age tonight had private rooms in the kasbah for them to make use of before the festivities. The chatter of friends rose and fell as my mother helped me into the qaftan and jewelry.

I felt a frisson of nerves when I looked at myself in the mirror. My mother and I looked eerily alike. She was taller, but we had the same brown skin, the same sharp cheekbones and sharper chin. Her hair was as thick and curling as mine, and seemed to sprout from a too high point on her forehead just like me.

But there the similarities ended. My mother had survived too many horrors to count, and never spoke of them. But her strength was obvious to anyone who bothered to look. She was unshakeable, and I— I wasn’t like my mother. I liked to think I was brave and filled with conviction, but I was untested. I’d suffered none of what she had, and to think of it made me shudder inside. How could I face adulthood, how could I expect to be a woman, when I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine my mother’s trials? How would I face my own?

“Becoming an adult is frightening,” my mother said, as if she’d read my mind. “You are smart to be wary. It means you will approach things slowly, and hopefully with wisdom.”

She urged me down into a seat in front of the mirror and got to work. There was not an abundance of jewelry to thread through my hair—we didn’t have the money for that. But my parents’ families had been botanists before the occupation, and my mother had managed to hold on to some of her own jewelry. Her sisters’ jewelry, too, had passed to my mother after they were all killed.

This was all I had of our past—my mother’s jewelry, and traditions like tonight. Soon, I would have my daan— a small inheritance, but a powerful one.

There was a chained circlet I had loved since I was a child, old and made of iron pieces shaped like doors, each hung with deep red stones. The majority night qaftan was my mother’s, white with red embroidery all along the bodice and down the center.

My mother smiled at me again in the mirror as she secured a pair of earrings studded with red stones. “There,” she said, and took hold of my chin to tilt my head a little. “You could be queen.”

 

***

 

The courtyard where the festivities were being held had been strung with lights. It was an old building on the very outskirts of the moon’s capital city. My spirit rose with the sound of music. The date palms were wound with bright, golden light, and caught on gold jewelry and embroidery on women’s qaftans, and bent off metal teapots and tea glasses. There were low tables and cushions spread through the length of the courtyard, and the entire village had made it to the celebration tonight. At the north end was a small stage where a band played, their lead singer crooning an old Kushaila song.

The trees were full of lights, and there were lanterns bobbing merrily in the fountain in the center of the courtyard. It babbled, undercutting the chatter of the many families celebrating in the tight space. Eleven other girls and their mothers pressed into the entrance beside me, waiting. Eyes turned toward us until nearly all the room was staring. Husnain caught my eye and winked at me, and my nerves eased slightly. Next to me, my mother squeezed my hand.

All of a sudden, the drums stopped, and conversation tapered off. For a long minute, there was nothing but the sound of the water flowing in the fountain. Someone blew on a horn, a deep, sonorous note, and then the drums began again.

We stepped out, one by one, to the sound of our fathers calling our names.

“Amani, daughter of Moulouda and Tariq.”

The purpose of the majority night wasn’t celebration alone. Our true step into adulthood was receiving our daan. The thirteen of us sat on cushions in the middle of the courtyard and waited.

The tattoo artist was an elderly woman, her daan turned green with age and folded into the wrinkles of her face. But her hands were steady and I remained still, despite the sting of her needle. In the old days I would have bled and it would have taken weeks for the marks to heal— now I would only need a few hours before they settled permanently on my face.

A crown for Dihya and Massinia took shape, overlapping diamonds curving over my forehead. Sharp lines for my lineage— my grandfather had claimed descent from Massinia herself, and though neither I nor my mother believed him, her markings went on my left cheek. On my right were my parents’ hopes for me— happiness, health, a good soul, a long life. I don’t know how long I sat while the old woman worked, but at last she pulled back and smiled.

“Baraka,” she murmured. Blessings.

And just like that, I slipped from childhood into adulthood.

My mother came to stand beside me, her face as stoic as ever, and squeezed my shoulder. Our daan were similar, almost mirror images of one another, and in that moment I hoped I could live up to them, live up to her. I lay my hand over hers and squeezed. With these marks I could face anything in the future. I hoped they would guide me toward joy and love instead of sorrow.

I followed the string of other girls and their mothers through the courtyard, weaving through the families watching, laughing, ululating in congratulations, to the banquet table at the north end. Those of us being celebrated tonight were to sit in the front of the banquet table with the elder women of our village and our mothers. My heart eased as I listened to them chatter. There was nowhere else on our small moon like these gatherings. Most of us were Kushaila, the oldest tribe group on Andala; my family was not the only one whose ancestors stretched back to the terraforming of our moon. The air rang with the sound of our mother tongue instead of Vathekaar, and our music and our laughter. For a moment I could imagine this was decades before the shadow of the Vath fell over our moon and conquered our planet and its system.

It was hard not to get swept away in the merriment, and when the songstress stepped down and a band took her place the tempo of music picked up. I loved the girls on either side of me— Khadija and Farah were my closest friends in the world. I’d grown up alongside Khadija. Our parents’ farmed plots of land beside one another, our mothers had walked to the orchards to pick fruit before either of us were born, before the Vath had ever darkened our skies. We’d taken our first steps together, learned to read together, and gone to school together. When it came time to register under the Vathek census, we’d gone to the capital city on Cadiz together.

It took no time at all for them both to grab my hands and pull me to my feet, and then we were off, dancing and laughing, singing along with the music.

I don’t know how long we danced, eventually joined by friends, laughing and chatting. The air was thick with incense smoke, the sharp sweet scent of cooked plums over lamb. The world seemed to glitter and waver as torchlight caught on sequins and false jewels. I know what we all must have looked like, had been a girl too young to partake only a year earlier. I had yearned to be part of the group, and now I was one of them: happy, crying out, falling over one another while we giggled.

For a while, I forgot my worries. Rebels, famine, poverty— none of these things mattered tonight.

And then the doors to the kasbah slammed open and the music stopped.

Copyright © 2018 by Sumayyah Daud and Alloy Entertainment

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