Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

The Tyrant's DaughterPublishing Date: February 11, 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 304

When her father is killed in a coup, fifteen-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?

I haven’t read any other books focusing on the specific subjects touched on in this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to The Tyrant’s Daughter. I ended up really enjoying the story and the characters. They were real to me in a way that a lot of other books’ characters aren’t. I really liked that while there is a huge disconnect between Laila’s world and mine, and I haven’t gone through anything remotely similar to what she has, I was still able to relate to and understand her actions and emotions.

I found the very beginning of the book a bit hard to follow, as it jumps around a lot between scenes, but the story settles in quickly and the book is a fast-paced read. Seeing the US through Laila’s eyes was really interesting and seeing it through the eyes of someone whose experiences were so different from my own added another layer to the story. Initially, Laila sees things almost as caricatures of themselves, and I thought it was interesting to see how her point of view of some things changed (or didn’t change) over the course of the book.

I also loved the section at the end where we learn a bit more about how the author approached the story, as well as some information that I felt added a new perspective to the events in the book that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Overall, I thought this was something truly different from what is available in YA right now, and that was really refreshing.

I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous BoyPublishing Date: January 28, 2014
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 240

Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science.  She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows.  On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long-forgotten room.  He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen.  And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy, everything that she believes will be tested.  Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never, ever giving up.

Though I didn’t read this book from the perspective of someone who has read the original fairy tale, there is so much to love about it. If I had been able to read Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy as a kid, I would have been ecstatic. Swords are and always have been a huge interest of mine, so I really enjoyed that her father is an international swords expert. Ophelia is a great protagonist. She’s nerdy, stubborn, and all around fun.

I envisioned the museum from the story’s setting as this massive, almost epic place. I loved the descriptions of the different galleries and the museum’s seemingly forgotten corners, and loved the concept of the Wintertide Clock.

Foxlee really has a way with words. I was more or less captivated by the story she told. While there were some moments in the prose when it was a bit overly repetitive or where the story was a bit predictable for my taste (which I suspect is partially due to the book being middle grade), I really loved it overall. The descriptions were lyrical and vivid, the characters were distinct and enjoyable, and other than the pace slowing down a bit toward the middle, the book was hard for me to put down.

I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars