Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

The blurb:
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? 

Fifteen-year-old Laila finds herself whisked away from her home and into suburban America.  As part of a political dynasty, she'd grown up as a princess in the palace in an unspecified Middle Eastern/Islamic nation, the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of kings.  But with her father's violent assassination, Laila, her widowed mother, and her six-year-old brother Bastien are lucky to escape from the palace alive.  

One person from that night, a cagey American operative, shows up at their apartment insisting that Laila's mother meet with displaced countrymen.  

Laila tries to make sense of her new life as a foreign student in a public high school in a D.C. suburb where there are plenty of foreign students, somewhat peripheral from the school's social center.  She's assigned a student to help her navigate this new world and this friendship is an anchor of sorts.  As she adjusts to the new way of dressing, of acting, and of seeing her place in the world, we can't help but root for Laila.

The political situation in her home country is volatile and the problems reach back into Laila's life.   As she tries to balance what she believe in and her relative position, things get complicated.  

I found myself drawn into the story, caring about Laila and the choices she made.  The Tyrant's Daughter has enough of the young girl's life to appeal to the younger readers but it takes the reader to a very different life and point of view.  I highly recommend it!
  • ISBN-10: 0449809978 - Hardcover $17.99
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 11, 2014), 304 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
J.C. Carleson is a former undercover CIA officer. Her near-decade of covert service took her around the globe, from bomb shelters in war zones to swanky cocktail parties in European capitals. A graduate of Cornell University, she lives outside Washington, DC. Visit her website at


  1. This book is a must-read. This piece of literature has affected me, on a fundamental level, and will not be soon forgotten.

  2. Written by a former undercover CIA agent, this book details the escape of Laila, her younger brother who is now King, and her mother from a Middle Eastern country after her father, the former ruler, is killed. It shows the difficulty of assimilating to a new culture and how hard it is to let traditions go. It also shows that one does not need to physically be in a country in order to be able to manipulate what happens in that country. Laila is an interesting and intelligent character. The writing flows well and it is a quick, good read. I recommend it.

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