Review: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem – Pre-Release


Title: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Author:  Elizabeth Kiem
Format: Hardcover, eBook, AudioBook
Publisher:  Soho Teen
Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-1616952631
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre:  YA Fiction, 14+
Stars:  4
Expected Date of Publication:  13 August, 2013|
Pre-Order Now:   Amazon §  Audio CD § Barnes&Noble
About the Book:

A new breed of spy novel combines classic thrills (The Americans, John Le Carre, and Alan Furst), Bolshoi intrigue, and elements of the paranormal.

Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears.

Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard  But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother’s “gift,” and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they’d left behind.

Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother’s disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can—and can’t—trust.

Book Review:

Narrated in Marina’s voice, the story starts quickly, and manages to introduce Marina and her curious “ability” quite effectively.  Not only has she inherited her mother’s ballet talent, she also has similar ‘spells’ where she is able to see events, present and past.

Moscow, in fact the whole of the USSR is in a holding pattern because of Brezhnev’s death: Marina’s mother has disappeared (not entirely uncommon) but her father is curiously circumspect and anxious.  When they learn that Sveta is in the State’s custody, plans are made for their escape from Moscow, and entrance into the United States.

From here: both the subplot of intrigue that will eventually reshape Marina’s entire life, and her solidly voiced and quite realistic adaption to the differences in life from Moscow to Brooklyn are intermingled and present what feels like a truly authentic representation of a teen’s feelings, interests and concerns.

Elizabeth Kiem does a marvellous job of introducing characters that feel real, if not always wholly developed, obviously secondary to the plot and mystery/suspense.  Conversations, descriptions and even word use feels current to the time, and adds sparkle to all of the characters.  The additions of music, classical and modern, and the overall tone of the story all did ‘feel’ very Russian in tone and approach: this is not a light read, even though it is highly entertaining.  The weighty approach that is embedded in the Russian soul tends to infiltrate and add to this story, improving the sense of difference that Marina feels in America, while highlighting her essential Russian-ness.

This is a book that will keep readers interested and engrossed: best for readers 14 and above, the history of the USSR will be a revelation to many, and the story will open minds to the difficulties that face many immigrants.

I received an ARC copy from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

One thought on “Review: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem – Pre-Release

  1. I like your comment about the immigrant experience though overall this book did not work for me and I especially hated Marina’s ability which only served to further stuff this overstuffed book in my opinion.

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