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Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (Dukovskaya #1)

3.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  461 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 13th 2013 by Soho Teen (first published January 1st 2013)
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May 22, 2015 Rabiah rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog-tour, historical
Originally posted at:

The extent of history that I know associated with Russia and the Soviet Union would include Anastasia, George Orwell's Animal Farm, and now this book. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy had a ton of history in it– people, places, events. I loved the journey from the Soviet Union to Brooklyn, the effect of a new culture and new home on Marina.
This novel took me a while to complete. Nearly 300 pages, it surprised me that it took me so long
Mar 06, 2013 Sarah marked it as to-read
This sounds soooooo intriguing.
Kathryn Howe
Nov 04, 2015 Kathryn Howe rated it really liked it

1 Girl, 4 Jobs

How many words can you use to describe your job without any synonyms? For many it includes Student, Sport, and family relation, either brother or sister. But what if you had to flee and you became the enemy target--then what would you be?

Marina is a teenage girl who was thrown into the mix of some top secret government information. Both she and her mom have visions; one has the past, the other the future. As unsettling as these become, Marina is forced to move on and contain some
Jun 23, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Marina is a teenager dancing in the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. She is the daughter of Sveta, Bolshoi's prima ballerina. Both Sveta and Marina have "spells" that allow them to see things. This leads Sveta to be obsessed with sharing this state secret. Then, she suddenly disappears. Marina and her father escape Moscow to Brooklyn, New York and Marina has to begin her life anew. Marina's ballet helps her begin to assimilate to America, but it is very difficult. It makes it more diffi
Jul 17, 2013 Nafiza rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss, 2013
For those more familiar with spy novels and Russian intrigue, this novel will probably have familiar terms and elements. I haven’t read many spy novels, proper spy novels, so I couldn’t really say. Unless, you count a lifelong obsession with the original Nikita. Marina is an interesting character; her struggles and internal conflicts both in Russia and in New York feel authentic and organic. She is intriguingly self-aware of her own privilege when she is living in Moscow and that gives an intere ...more
Brandi Rae
Sep 02, 2013 Brandi Rae rated it it was ok
This was more of a 1980's Cold War spy book than a dancing book, which is actually a good thing--I love spy stories, even if they require a healthy dose of suspension of belief. However, the whole plot was set off by "visions" that both the main character and her mother were getting, in which the mother learned things that put the family in danger, forcing them to flee from USSR to the United States. The visions were basically a convient plot device that were never really explained, and were kin ...more
Aug 16, 2013 Lindley rated it liked it
I absolutely love the title of this book-I think it's clever and it is one that stuck with me long after I had first read the synopsis of this book. I wish that the book had lived up to its clever title. I think that the story had a promising start--we get to see what life was like for one of the privileged few in Soviet-era Russia. That lifestyle is quickly disrupted when Marina's mother goes missing. Marina and her father are forced to flee the country and end up hiding out in Brooklyn. Marina ...more
Review originally published at

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy has a terrific premise: 17-year-old ballerina Marina Dukovskaya is an up and coming ballerina in Moscow. Her mother, Svetlana Dukovskaya is one of Russia's prima donnas, and although past her prime, she is still very much in the spotlight. But one day Sveta disappears, taken by the KGB, and Marina and her father must flee to America. This book is full of ballet, the KGB, the Cold War, mobsters, fugitives, interna
Jul 11, 2014 Leeanna rated it it was ok
This review originally appeared on my blog,


DANCER, DAUGHTER, TRAITOR, SPY is a book I was excited about. There aren’t many YA books that have non-American main characters, so to have a book about a Russian girl, and a ballerina at that -- well, it seemed like a winning combo for me.

The book starts out with Marina in the Soviet Union, at a ballet class. Her mother, a famous dancer herself, is about to leave on a cultural trip to the United States. But when Marina returns home, she l
ok, so there's a lot going on in this book: a bit of ballet, lots of spy intrigue, cold war and russian history/germ warfare conspiracy, lots of musical references, russian mobsters, visions of the past and future, first love, missing and dead people, phew! And for the most part it worked for me. Marina is a private & reserved girl. She's not shy but she doesn't share as a default, and she's in a place where she can't trust anyone and trying to process a lot of traumatic things, which transl ...more
Annemarie Donahue
Set in 1983, the book followed the life of Marina, a young and talented ballerina in the Bolshoi academy. After her mother is condemned as an enemy of the state, Marina and her father must flea to America, leaving their life of wealth and comfort behind. Marina's acclamation to American life is difficult until she meets Ben Frame, a child of Russian immigrants. Ben and Marina quickly become attracted to each other and through music she soon learns to leave behind her life in Soviet Russia. The b ...more
Jules Goud
Marya lives in the Soviet Union until her mother is taken. Her mother knew some things that she wasn't supposed to. Now, the government wants to keep her quiet. So, Marya and her father go to American and they then become defectors or as she likes to call them, traitors.

Her dad wants her mom back. Really badly. In Amercia, he gets really paranoid. Marya needs to be careful because the people she knows are all spies. The KGB will come knocking on their door and they will be helpless against them.
Mirele Kessous
Dec 15, 2014 Mirele Kessous rated it liked it
This was my first time listening to an audiobook from beginning to end, so that may have colored my experience of this book. That said, I enjoyed the book overall. I liked how historical details about Soviet Russia were embedded into the story. It seemed like the author did a great deal of research about the time period and knew her settings well. The characters were well-developed too. Aside from the fact that many of the events in the story strained credulity, things were engaging enough until ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I was quickly intrigued by the 1982 Russian setting and found the book hard to put down. I enjoy spy novels but often find them too bogged down in historical/government details. This one is all about the characters (who Marina can trust?) and driven by the mysterious disappearance of her mother and the lengths to which people/governments might go to find or obscure the truth.

This will be easy to recommend to teen girls. I actually think boys would enjoy it, too, although that would not be as eas
Oct 24, 2014 Kimmy rated it liked it

Cover image and summary from Goodreads:

A new breed of spy novel combines classic thrills (The Americans, John Le Carre, and Alan Furst), Bolshoi intrigue, and elements of the paranormal.

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 live
Nov 04, 2014 Susan rated it liked it
Marina is a student at the Soviet Union’s famed ballet school of the Bolshoi, where her mother is a prima ballerina. It seems that she is destined for an equally privileged life until one day her mother disappears and she and her father must flee with almost nothing. Ending up in Brighton Beach, her father insists that they live incognito and draw little attention by association with their previous lives. However, Marina comes to recognize that without dance she does not have a life and contrive ...more
Ariel Caldwell
Jul 16, 2015 Ariel Caldwell rated it liked it
I picked it up because of the rhythmic title and the cover, plus the plot combination of a high-ranked ballet student escaping the Soviet Union in the early 80s, and her mother's "mysterious second sight" and compulsion to release a state secret. It was an interesting read, I liked the main character, and that it touched on mental health and what to believe. However, especially toward the end, I found it stereotypical somewhat flat, and not terribly believable.

My roommate read it too (he dances
Mar 07, 2014 Lexi rated it liked it
This book was a real mixed bag. I liked the author's writing style and her knowledge of Russia and ballet were a real plus. Ben and Marya's relationship was authentic, and Sergei's real involvement in the plot was a nice twist. However, Marya's "visions" were a bit too confusing and some of them didn't even come true, so what was the point? Also, the denouement was kind of a let down (not to mention it didn't make any sense), which is ironic considering the character basically said as much in th ...more
Valerie Mabrey
Sep 17, 2014 Valerie Mabrey rated it it was ok
I won this book on Goodreads. I was excited about the idea of A Russian themed book for young people. I must say though the Russian words for items and such sometimes lost me a bit. I feel like the author rushed the story and did not let me sink deep enough into the characters that she had introduced to me. Maybe it is because it is going to be a series and she wants to develop them as the story advances. All in all I liked the book and would probably pick up the next one to see where the charac ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Erica rated it liked it
Marina's status as the daughter of a famed ballerina means that she's had a privileged life in the Soviet Union. But when her mother discovers something the government wants kept secret, Marina and her father have to flee their cushy life for small flat in Brooklyn. I like a lot of the topics this book touches on: the cold war, ballet, spies, the mafia. Unfortunately the book's strong points were also its weaknesses. The plot was scattered and had so many threads that none were explored in depth ...more
Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

So many thoughts! This caught my attention due to its title and its kind of similarity to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (as the publisher synopsis references John le Carre, I suspect that is not unintentional). Additionally the cover is quite striking with its vivid pops of color (pink and yellow is combination I am loving this summer). And my third reason, like I need a third reason after the intrigui
Mrs. Kenyon
Aug 25, 2013 Mrs. Kenyon rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-audiobooks
The Cold War is still raging as Marina trains to become a ballerina in the Soviet Union. She knows it is possible, because her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina. Unfortunately, her mother has the gift of sight and when she attempts to expose a terrible state secret she disappears. Marina and her father flee to Brooklyn and she wants to reestablish herself as a ballerina by attending Juilliard. She is assigned a partner named Sergei, and her father believes he will be their con ...more
Ali *The Black Heart*
Aug 14, 2013 Ali *The Black Heart* rated it it was ok
Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy has many great elements. Intrigue, paranoia, deception and a little romance for balance. I'm not, however, sure that it will find its target audience in the young adult world.

The story takes place in the 1980's, during the Cold War. I am barely old enough to remember much about the time period and I imagine some of the details at the beginning of the book may make for a less than interesting read for a younger audience. Beyond the Cold War aspect is the cultural as
Apr 15, 2013 Breda rated it liked it
An intriguing, high-stakes thriller with just a touch of the supernatural, DANCER DAUGHTER TRAITOR SPY satisfactorily blends Soviet politics with a keen insight into the individuals living under them.

Kiem's writing style is lovely: she depicts both the harshness of the USSR and outer-borough Brooklyn alongside the beauty and joy that Marina takes in music and dancing. I was also impressed by the deft way she handled the language barrier upon Marina's arrival in Brooklyn.

While I was intrigued by
"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 Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that ...more
Jul 03, 2013 Jane rated it liked it
I received this book as an advance copy and at first I was not sure if I was going to like it. Once I got through the first few chapters I began to enjoy the writing. The story is told from the view of Marina a Russian up and coming ballerina. Her mother is a prima ballerina and her father is a scientist. She has led a privileged life and does not understand all the politics of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Politics and intrigue are thrust upon her when her mother goes missing and she an
Christianna Marks
You can read this and many other reviews on my YA book blog The White Unicorn!

This book seriously snuck up on me. To be honest, I picked it up because my dad always told us that our mom had been a Russian ballerina spy (which couldn't be further from the truth) and I thought it was funny that that's was what this book was about. So, I requested it, and I couldn't be happier that I did. It wasn't anything like what I thought it was going to be, but it was so much better. Sure this book wasn't per
Red Letter
Aug 17, 2013 Red Letter rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller, ya
Definitely a YA with crossover appeal and a unique story to tell. A couple of our readers wanted more, but the overall verdict is it’s a tight and fun thriller.

Here's a peek at what our reviewers had to say:

JoLee "This is a slim tome, tallying just 288 pages, and I really it was longer so that we could have more of all that great stuff." Grade: B

Lori "Let me first say that if you pick up Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy because you like books about ballet and dancing, put it back down. The ballet
Marathon County Public Library MCPL
Marina's mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union's star ballerina in 1986. When Sveta has visions of a horrific USSR secret, she mysteriously goes missing. Marina and her father flee to Brooklyn to escape the KGB, the Soviet Union's secret police. Marina and her father must adapt to life in Brooklyn without Sveta, but Marina's father can't let her disappearance go. He gets mixed up in the Russian mob in an effort to get Sveta back to their family in the United States. Marina finds herself caught up i ...more
May 23, 2013 Gaele rated it really liked it
Narrated in Marina’s voice, the story starts quickly, and manages to introduce Marina and her curious “ability” quite effectively. Not only has she inherited her mother’s ballet talent, she also has similar ‘spells’ where she is able to see events, present and past.

Moscow, in fact the whole of the USSR is in a holding pattern because of Brezhnev’s death: Marina’s mother has disappeared (not entirely uncommon) but her father is curiously circumspect and anxious. When they learn that Sveta is in
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Elizabeth Kiem is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

She has worked as a journalist for Reuters, NPR, and CNN and as a communications consultant for Unicef.

She has lived in Brooklyn for more than 15 years. Before that she lived in Moscow as it entered a new era.

Twenty years out of pointe shoes, she dances salsa and swing ... but she still has dreams on toe. They're every bit as good as
More about Elizabeth Kiem...

Other Books in the Series

Dukovskaya (2 books)
  • Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper (Dukovskaya #2)

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