An Invisible Queen

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Random House | Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
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.

Thoughts on The Tyrant's Daughter
I received an email from NetGalley about The Tyrant's Daughter, and I was intrigued enough to immediately hop on and download a copy. The cover is striking, and the description really caught my attention. While I usually have a general idea of what's going on in the world, I'm definitely not an expert on politics or global events. And yet I really loved the idea of a young adult book with this unique yet relevant subject matter.

The book opens after Laila has moved to the United States with her mother and younger brother. They've fled an unnamed country in the Middle East after the death of her father in a coup that was led by Laila's uncle. She grew up believing that her family was royalty - her father a king just like his father before him. Seeking safety in the U.S., Laila soon learns that the rest of the world doesn't view her family quite as kindly. Televisions and online articles tell a different story - Laila's father was a dictator.

The Tyrant's Daughter portrays Laila's struggles once she arrives in the United States. She's beginning to see her family, her history, and her country through different eyes. I really loved how Carleson portrayed Laila's experiences with high school, friends, boys and trying to fit in while she also tries to remain true to what she was raised to believe. I've read a lot of young adult that is essentially a coming-of-age story, but this felt so unique because of the politics involved in Laila's story.

I think what I found most impressive about The Tyrant's Daughter is that it's a global story told on a personal level. Carleson's books humanizes the conflict in the Middle East. It puts a face and a voice to something so large and complex. Laila's father was a dictator, but he was also a father. It's easy for someone on the news to seem like an object - something other than human. But, no matter how evil, people are layered and complex creatures. The Tyrant's Daughter doesn't vilify Middle Easterners. Instead, it offered perspective and highlighted the people behind the politics. The main characters in this book felt so real, and I really appreciated how Carleson made me think about the world around me.

To be completely honest, I was caught off guard by how much I enjoyed this book! I really loved Laila as a narrator. She was sharp, observant and smart. Her struggle to reconcile what she knew about her family and father with what the world said about them was just captivating. And the way she looked at American culture? I thought it was really thought-provoking without ever becoming preachy. Culture plays a role in The Tyrant's Daughter because it leads to growth and self-discovery, but I loved that the stakes were higher than in a typical YA book. It's not just about falling in love or choosing a college - Laila's is just a normal teenage girl whose problems are amplified because they are important on a global level.

There's so much depth to The Tyrant's Daughter! I loved the writing - it was readable and felt authentic. It truly put me in Laila's shoes. The pacing was spot on, and it kept me hooked while I was reading. The ending wraps up a little bit quickly, but that's such a minor complaint overall. I honestly don't think I've ever read anything quite like this book, and I'm so impressed by Carleson's book. It's the story of one girl, caught in the crosshairs of an international crisis, as she comes to terms with her past and wrestles with what awaits her in the future.

So Quotable
"My brother is the King of Nowhere. This fact doesn't matter to anyone except my family -- a rapidly shrinking circle of people who Used to Be. And, even for us, there are surprisingly few perks. Now we sit in our airless apartment, curtains closed against the outside world, pretending."
*I received a copy of this book from Knopf Books for Young Reads in exchange for a honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

17 comments:

  1. I downloaded this from NetGalley because I thought the synopsis sounded intriguing. I still wasn't too sure whether it'd be something I'd like or not, so I'm glad this sounds so good! I will be reading it here soon.

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    1. Oh I'm so glad to hear that! I wasn't really sure about reading it at first since it's not a book I've heard much about, but I hope you enjoy it like I did.

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  2. This one sounds really unique -- with such an influx of new books all the time, it's hard to stand out, but this one seems to do that. Will have to keep it in mind :)

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    1. I thought the same thing! It was such a unique premise that I couldn't help being intrigued by it.

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  3. Wow, I think it's safe to say that I've never read a book description quite like this one before. What an ambitious topic! I had never heard of The Tyrant's Daughter prior to your review, but I'm certainly interested in reading it now. I love the idea of Laila being ignorant of the reality of her father's identity and slowly having to come to terms with the truth. It reminds me a little of what Gretchen apparently goes through in Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog, in that she's shielded from the truth about Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. (Maybe this comparison is stretching things a little. Can you tell I can hardly wait to begin reading Prisoner of Night and Fog? Hehe) Anyway, as you mentioned, it's a testament to the author's writing that you were able to connect so deeply with a story whose scope is so vast. In the wrong hands this novel could have come off as pedantic or boring, but by making it about Laila, Carleson seems to have crafted a personal story that most would be able to relate to and care about.

    Thank you so much for writing such a lovely, thorough review, Hannah. I might never have heard of this book had it not been for you, and now I can't wait to pick up a copy for myself! :)

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    1. Oh my goodness, I'm dyingggg to read Prisoner of Night & Fog. It sounds so different and so good! And yes, that's it exactly - by making it about Laila, she makes you see the "issues" in a whole new light. And I'm really so pleased that I got to introduce so many people to this book!

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  4. Ok Hannah, I realized why you can make me read books that I never would have glanced at... YOUR WRITING. You write reviews amazingly honestly <3 I always want to pick up books that I find uninteresting at first when I read your reviews!! This does sound interesting, although I'm not much into global affairs and such but I like the fact that it's not typical like you said. I'm gonna add this to the maybe list! Awesome review (and I was waiting for this to go up!! lol)

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    1. DANG GIRL. What a nice thing to say! I seriously am blushing a little bit at that compliment. Hope you like this one if you end up reading it :) And don't worry, I'm not really into global affairs either.

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  5. I've honestly not heard of this book, but your review has pretty much convinced me that I should check it out! I think there's something very important about the way culture is portrayed and utilized in this book as a part of this character's story. I've not read many novels like that, so this would definitely be something that stood out in that aspect alone! I can't wait to eventually pick up a copy when I can :)

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    1. Oh yay! Yeah, the whole intersection of a different culture with the US was sooo fascinating. It was worth reading for that alone!

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  6. I just started reading this too! I was also intrigued enough by the synopsis to get it from netgalley when they emailed me. I'm not too far in yet but enjoying it so far!

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    1. Yayyy! Hope you ended up enjoying this one :)

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  7. I've never heard of this book before, but you have sold me! I really like books that take big issues down to a personal level and everything you've said about how this book does this makes me want to run out and pick it up immediately. Thank you!

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    1. EEEK! I love when someone hasn't even heard of a book before but wants to read it after my review. That's such a compliment! So thank YOU for saying so :)

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  8. Thanks for the great review. I have a gift card and debating which books I want to buy so this post moved The Tyrant's Daughter way up the list.

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    1. Oh awesome! That makes me so happy!

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