I received this book for free from the Audiobook Jukebox in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem
Narrator: Angela Brazil
Published by AudioGO on 13 August 2013
Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
Source: Audiobook Jukebox
Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina; an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears.
Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at the American School of Ballet. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother’s "gift", and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they’d left behind.
Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother’s disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can - and can’t - trust.
This is the kind of book that is impossible to categorize. You can’t say it’s about dance or it’s about a paranormal ability or it’s about spies, even though it is, to some extent, about all of these things. In the end, it seems to be about how we connect with one another. The characters have complicated feelings and complicated relationships that make the story feel real. Books don’t always present the way that you can love and hate someone at the same time, but Kiem wrote relationships that swung between many different emotions.
Marina deals with her complicated life through dance, although it plays a much smaller role that I expected it to. It is music, actually, that takes center stage, both in the imagery that is woven through the book and in Marina’s love interest, a musical prodigy. The paranormal aspect also took a smaller role than I expected. I might go so far as to call it magical realism. It is something that I felt integral to the plot because Marina’s mom wouldn’t have gotten into trouble without her visions, but not something that ever influenced Marina’s actions. She didn’t understand her visions, barely tried to, and certainly didn’t act on them. Still, the paranormal element never feels out of place.
My biggest issue is the end. I loved all the build up and I enjoyed the end, but it wrapped up too quickly for my tastes. Instead of seeing the fallout of everything that has happened, Marina explains how everything has been wrapped up. I did find it enjoyable, if a little unsatisfying. The story in general felt like a tragedy, but ended on a hopeful note that leaves things open to a sequel.
Favorite Moments: The first time Marina and Ben listen to music together. I loved how Kiem was able to show that music can reach us when we’re at the darkest part of our lives and connect us to ourselves and the people around us.
WTF Moments: Finding out what Marina’s mom knew that got her in trouble.
Overall: I really enjoyed this book. It feels like a song that “gets you” even though you can’t quite figure out why.
Narrator: Angela Brazil is definitely a performer. She brings forward Marina’s emotions and attitude perfectly. At one point, there is actually a sarcastic laugh that could not have been in the book, but that works so well and really adds to the audiobook experience. My only issue is a personal preference. Like many narrators, Brazil speaks slowly. For most people this is a good thing, but for those of us who like to listen to fast talkers, the performance is just as powerful and easy to understand at twice the speed.