Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: "The Tryrant's Daughter" by J.C. Carleson

From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs. When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations? J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics. *Bonus Backmatter includes a note about the author's CIA past, and a commentary by RAND researcher and president of ARCH International, Dr. Cheryl Benard. Recommendations for further reading are also included. From the Hardcover edition.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review an ARC of this book.

Leila has a heavy load to bear, and I fully admire the strength with which she fights her daily battles.  The relationship Leila has with her mother is very complex - we can see the love, but there's also a lot of animosity and misunderstanding.  It was nice to see Leila make some friends - I loved how she shocked them with one of her "barbaric" fairy tales from home, it was kind of funny/sad - and even a boyfriend, but through it all, I knew she was never going to fit in completely.  And I guess that's where Amir comes in.  Amir's character was really well done - I thoroughly  enjoyed watching his and Leila's relationship evolve from outright hostility to understanding and a friendship of sorts. 

Where this novel excels is in its subtle comparisons between life in the Middle East and America.  I loved the scene right at the beginning where Leila's little brother is having difficulty choosing what cereal he's going to eat, because in his former life, there weren't any options.  All of these comparisons were so beautifully written, it wasn't like the author was beating the reader over the head with them - I really appreciated that.

This whole book was a real surprise, including the ending - I wasn't expecting "The Tyrant's Daughter" to be as good as it was.

My rating:  3.5 stars

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