I love, love, loved this book, despite the fact that it contained some one of my least favorite things... a love triangle/line/thingy. Generally that's a pretty large deal breaker for me, since romance is so not my thing. But this book was so captivating, so compelling, and just such an interesting and intriguing read that I just didn't care.
Amani's planet has been overtaken by the Vathek, members of a brutal empire with a greatly-disliked royal family. Although Amani's people are generally left alone on the nights of major celebrations, the night that Amani receives her daan is also the last night that she will see her family. The royal family is looking for a stand-in for the princess, and Amani happens to look just like her. Forced into a world and society where she neither belongs nor feels safe, Amani must struggle to reconcile her knowledge of and experiences with her growing feelings towards the princess' fiancé, while also playing her part to perfection. After all, one slip up could not only endanger her life, but her family's lives as well.
I loved the world-building that went on in this book. We didn't get to see much of Amani's home, but we did get to learn a lot about her culture through not only her interactions with other people, but her memories and general reflections of her life before. What we got to see a lot more of was the royal palace, and it was definitely an interesting contrast to see the way that Amani reacted to the luxury and opulence compared to what she was used to living with.
Speaking of Amani, I really did like her as a character. She was strong and independent, but she was also extremely understanding, kind, and loyal. Everything she went through with the Vathek was to protect her family, and to keep them from being punished. It was also interesting to see how her interactions with Maram changed over time, and I loved that the book was able to show us that while there are many obvious advantages to being part of the royal family, life isn't a garden full of roses. There are still parts that are awful as well, and this book does a really good job of exploring those through Amani and her evolving relationship with Maram. There actually weren't a ton of characters in this book now that I'm thinking about it, so it was definitely nice to have a main character that I actually enjoyed reading about, and who didn't give off that Special Snowflake vibe.
The whole romance thing did bother me a little, mostly because I feel like it's so common in YA fantasy for this type of relationship to develop that it felt a bit overused compared with the relative uniqueness of the rest of the story. Because the rest of the story was so original, it stuck out a bit more than I think it normally would have. But it was so minor that I was willing to (almost) completely overlook it.
I honestly cannot wait for the next book to come out. And this one hasn't even technically come out yet. This is going well.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my feelings towards, review of, or opinions on the book.