Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy
By Elizabeth Kiem
In the book 'Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy' Marina is not the usual fearless, self reliant protagonist of so many young adult adventures. She is hesitant and shaped undoubtedly, by her childhood in Soviet Russia. Marina is a daughter of privilege, a rising star at the Bolshoi Ballet's long time leading lady. While her mother Svetlana's disappearance is the greatest tragedy in Marina’s life, it also forces her to take much more responsibility for herself. Her exile to Brooklyn is empowering despite her heartbreak, and allows her to discover her own strength of character.
The setting of this novel has had a great impact on the plot of the story. Marina escapes from Soviet Russian to New York, Brooklyn to escape the USSR. Her life in Brooklyn changes her life greatly. She must learn to survive on her own and becomes a strong character. Elizabeth Kiem skillfully creates the setting of the Soviet lifestyle by dropping Russian words and mannerisms into the story, and describing traditions and habits used in the soviet union.
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.