Tag Archives: ballerina

Review: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth KiemDancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (The Bolshoi Saga #1)
Elizabeth Kiem
Soho Teen
Published on August 13, 2013

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About Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
Marya is a ballet dancer born of privilege; her mother, Sveta, is the most popular ballet dancer in the Soviet Union and its glamorous face to the West.

When Sveta disappears, Marya and her father suspect their own lives are in danger and arrange a harrowing defection. Marya is certain that her father is doomed to be murdered at their new home in Brighton Beach, where his closest friends are unapologetic criminals . . . she’s “seen” him die.

Soon she’s drawn into web of intrigue that ultimately reveals the truth about her gift of foresight, her mother’s disappearance, and a boy she cannot bring herself to trust.

My Review
Things that drew me to this book: the 80s setting, the ballet elements, the Russian characters, and the intrigue/mystery about her mom. Reading about the 80s was super fun. I loved the conversations Marya has with Ben about music and some of the descriptions of fashion. That part of the story was a lot of fun to read. As a former ballet dancer myself, I love reading books that feature ballerina characters. It definitely makes me miss dancing but also gives me a chance to celebrate that part of my life again.

Truthfully, I was a little nervous once I read the author’s note about characters being referred to by multiple names as they would be in Russian culture because I have a harder time keeping track of a lot of names in a novel anyway. But actually, I had no trouble. There are only a few characters with multiple names, and most often it’s Marya who’s referred to by different names, and even those were easy to keep track of.

Solving the mystery of her mother’s disappearance drives Marya’s story forward. Just like Marya, her mother has a supernatural gift that gets her into trouble. In Sveta’s case, it’s the ability to see past events which she has no personal knowledge of. Things like a secret government experiment. While I really enjoyed the mysterious, suspenseful feel of the story, I felt like the supernatural gifts didn’t really fit. It seemed to me like they were really shortcuts so things could happen in the plot without needing realistic explanation. Marya could discover something via her gift rather than uncovering clues leading her to the conclusion.

The plot of the story focused more on the relationships between characters than on the mystery/suspense elements. I didn’t mind this as a reader, but it wasn’t what I was expecting based on the title of the book, which sounded like a reference to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. All in all, I enjoyed reading it. Not sure the series is really for me, though. 80s fans or readers interested in Russian culture will definitely want to get a copy of this one, though.

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Cultural Elements
Major characters are Russian and several are referred to by more than one name (the author explains this is the way they’d be used in Russian culture.). I thought that would be really confusing, but actually I had no problem keeping the characters straight. The story contains some phrases and words in Russian, too.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used fairly infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Rumors about Sveta and the ballet director, who’s said to be in love with her.

Spiritual Content
Marya and her mother have unusual gifts. Marya’s mother can see the past and has visions of things she has no real way to know. Marya has visions that foretell the future.

Violent Content
Marya worries that her mother may be tortured or killed. She has a vision of a person with a gun preparing to shoot her friends. She sees some members of the Russian mafia and hears some rumors about how they operate. She stumbles into a crime scene in which a man has been shot.

Drug Content
Some scenes show characters drinking alcohol or getting drunk. (Mostly these are adults.) At one point, Marya pours out a bottle of vodka because she doesn’t want her dad and uncle to drink it.