Author: J.C. Carleson
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: 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?
Huge thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for the advance reader copy.
River’s Review (4.5 Stars)
Wow this book was good. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when I went into it, but I’m so glad that I read it. Sadly, I’m not really that up-to-date with everything that is going on in the middle east (I blame living in Japan, but it’s mostly my own apathy towards keeping up to date with world news), but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book. I especially loved reading the authors note at the end and seeing how she used parallel events in her novel.
As a non-native living in a foreign country (American living in Japan) I could totally connect with Laila and her family on their exile to the US. I know what it’s like to move to a new country and be faced with having to explain and defend your own culture while trying to navigate, understand, and even accept the new culture that you’re in. I really loved how this was done. All of Laila’s stereotypes about the USA are ones that I hear from Japanese people ALL of the time. Everything is big, loud, noisy, too fast. At first it bothered me and I felt like the author was perpetuating the American stereotype, but the more I thought about it, the more honest it was. I find that A LOT of people outside of the USA are more-or-less trained to think that the USA IS this loud, fat, superficial nation. And the same goes for people in the USA. Laila’s friends were quick to judge her and her culture, and they often didn’t accept her culture. I loved it when she told the Cinderella story and the way everyone reacted. I can honestly say that I’ve also had similar reactions to Japanese culture. I try to understand, and have come to accept A LOT of it, but there are just some things that I cannot. But UNDERSTANDING is the key. So I really clicked with this aspect of the book and enjoyed the hell out of it.
I really loved Laila’s voice. She was such a strong character and so regal all through the story. She had her moments of weakness, anger, recklessness. She was able to rebel in more ways than a typical teenager, and she went all out at times. I’m glad that she stepped out of her comfort zone and tried new things. I liked her friends and the way she handled her choices. I loved watching her navigate her new life and deal with the freedoms she was suddenly handed.
I also loved the descriptions of the middle east. One of the BIGGEST issues I have with books set in foreign countries is that a lot of the time the author has no idea about the REAL LIFE stuff that happens. Anyone can watch the news and google about foreign countries, but if you haven’t spent a GOOD amount of time in a place, you wont really understand the way things work, the customs, the people. The author was spot on with the details though and I never felt the need to question what she was showing us. Credibility is important with books set in foreign countries, and this was full of it.
I was really surprised by the ending though! I didn’t see it moving in that direction and thought it was a brave choice.
And can I say how freaking COOL it is that the author was a legit CIA operative? One of my childhood dreams!!! Ah, so cool. Def check this book out guys!
Sam’s Review (4.5 Stars)
I went into the Tyrant’s Daughter with zero expectations. Truthfully, the story didn’t entirely sound like something I’d enjoy. Colour me shocked when I devoured 50% of the book in a day. Carleson’s book has these amazing powers of just sucking reader’s into Laila’s world and making you feel like you understand her hostility and aggression.
While I’m not always paying attention to current events, I found that the story Carleson told was surprisingly accessible. There’s a lot happening and for the most part (up until the end) it was easy to follow and Laila, for all her frustration and anger was a very easy protagonist to follow. Actually, I quite loved her. Being in her head was so fascinating, from her prejudice to her understanding. I liked that she wasn’t white washed — her culture is explicitly important to her, and even when she tries to be understanding or trying to fit in, her struggles are something that one can easily understand.
I think what I loved the most was just how real the story felt. Seeing how her mother and brother attempted to adapt was both interesting and heartbreaking. You get a sense that while their could be light at the end of the tunnel for everyone… not all the characters necessary want it. I also loved all the additional material at the end of the book that showed what inspired the story or the events that were rooted into the tale. I love having that extra bit of knowledge because I always find it helps me appreciate a story just a bit more.
The Tyrant’s Daughter is a very deep and layered story. It’s a great page-turner, but it’s not necessarily the easiest book to read. Laila is just such a great story teller, and that a lone is really what sold me on the entire novel. The writing is equally tight and fast-paced, and what I loved is the amount of realism. This book is definitely worth checking out, even if it’s something you might not think is your cup of tea — you’ll be pleasantly surprised.