The Tyrant’s Daughter is the existential story of a teenage girl living on the periphery of war, where she straddles the blood-soaked country she’s always called home and the new American land of bittersweet promise where she has since been exiled.

Laila is 15 years old when her father—the iron-fisted inheritor of an unnamed Middle Eastern “kingdom”—is murdered in cold-blooded betrayal. Laila’s mother agrees to the amnesty offered by an American CIA agent in exchange for family and governmental secrets, and Laila’s family is whisked away to Washington, D.C. 

Laila is observant, analytical and introspective, regularly comparing American customs to her family’s old existence of royal restriction. She neither fully condemns nor endorses either one of her lives or the people associated with them, but rather walks the common ground between them and begins to understand them. She grapples with harsh truths of guilt, identity and freedom. Without knowing whom she can truly trust, she must tread quietly and cautiously if she hopes to avoid the destruction of her family and her country.

As a former undercover CIA agent, debut author J.C. Carleson has a firm grasp on the world of espionage and power plays. She is able to take her intimate knowledge of this secretive world, an often-avoided gray area of morality, and craft an amazingly gripping and honest tale. Carleson keeps her readers feeling as though they have just returned from traveling in a foreign land, making those faraway issues feel a little more personal—a feat few can achieve with words alone.

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