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The Bolshoi Saga #1

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

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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.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

Elizabeth Kiem

7 books52 followers
Elizabeth Kiem is the author of The Bolshoi Saga published by Soho Teen.

She has loved Moscow, New York and Alaska, and she currently lives in London, where she pursues projects that nurture passionate reading and brave writing.

Twenty-five years after leaving the barre, she still has dreams on pointe. In waking hours, she sticks to salsa.

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5 stars
65 (9%)
4 stars
168 (25%)
3 stars
276 (41%)
2 stars
113 (16%)
1 star
50 (7%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 149 reviews
Profile Image for Maria.
536 reviews42 followers
June 26, 2017
abandoned at 45%. it was slightly entertaining with all things Soviet but since they moved to Brooklyn it became utterly boring. and it's supposed to be a spy triller, mind it
Profile Image for Rabiah.
488 reviews216 followers
May 23, 2015
Originally posted at: http://iliveforreading.blogspot.sg/20...

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 to read, but in the end, I guess it was because of the addition of Russian words and the thoughts that took a while for Marina to sink in and reveal to the reader. I found myself a little confused along the way, wondering who was good and who was bad, but it all tied up in a thrilling climax and conclusion.

Marina was such a great character. I thought that the emotions that came across in her perspective really shows the skill of Elizabeth Kiem as an author. I feel that I would have had the same feelings in the same situation (which I have had before) when coming to a new place. English is a whole new language for Marina and her constant struggle to understand and speak the language was done very neatly in the book, so I applaud Kiem for that! However, I felt that the whole dance aspect kind of died down into the book and it distanced itself quite far from what it was in the beginning to just before the middle of the book. Nonetheless, I still thought she was a great main character.
Benjamin Frame! I'm glad there was a cute boy thrown in this book. The only problem I had was that he kind of disappeared and reappeared many times, and I felt that his character was a little inconsistent in appearances throughout the plot line. Sure, he was there, but his input seemed a little unnecessary at times for the story. However, he was still such a fabulous contribution to the plot, and I especially love the twist at the end, where it all comes together and creates a heck of a climax. Ben is a huge part of it, and I found myself shocked and gaping at the turn of events.

I also thought that the addition of the whole mafia and spy thriller thing put me off a little bit when reading this book. Sometimes it was total kick-ass action, which I enjoyed. Other times though it would be like, what in heck are they going on about? The supernatural element I also felt was unnecessary in this book. The visions? Completely made me confused and didn't really add much to the plot, even though the visions truly could have made the book much more suspenseful and thrilling if they could have been used consistently.
In the end I thought the novel tied up nicely. There was prospects of what could possibly come next, there was nothing really left hanging, and at least some is up to the reader's imagination.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy and found it to be engrossing and delightfully gripping. Elizabeth Kiem truly is a story-teller– her words bring the past to the present, and create a fantastic clash of cultures, and a plot that thickens with every twist. You will not regret picking this one up!

▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Meredith Barnes of Soho Press for making me apart of this blog tour and the eGalley for review! ▪ ▪ ▪
Profile Image for Sarah.
820 reviews150 followers
Want to read
March 6, 2013
This sounds soooooo intriguing.
Profile Image for Jammin Jenny.
1,387 reviews187 followers
April 20, 2021
I really enjoyed this story that focuses on a prima ballerina that escapes the Soviet Union with her father to come to the U.S. Her mother (also a ballerina) had disappeared and they were hoping to find her or why and how she disappears. The author did a great job describing the Russian mafia and the layout of Brighton Beach in New York, a fairly large Russian community.
Profile Image for Kobi.
152 reviews16 followers
June 25, 2017
This book started out a bit slow for my liking as it was a bit of a learning curve to comprehend the use of Russian and English words. I liked Marya's character and her want to save everyone she loves even though she does not trust them. Ben was my favorite and I loved the relationship that he formed with Marya. Overall while this might not be one of my favorite reads, it was still short and enjoyable.
238 reviews
April 11, 2023
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023: aBook set in the decade you were born (1980-1989)🙂
Such a good book, chosen for the challenge, picked because of the pretty pink on the cover and read because it was a Teen book. This book has so much, adventure, mystery, surprises, and emotion. I enjoyed it and will be reading the 2 books following this first one. I am crossing my fingers that the trilogy keeps me intrigued through them all ....
Profile Image for Isadora.
103 reviews7 followers
September 9, 2017
I couldn't exactly follow the story, but I learned a few words!!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
367 reviews2 followers
August 14, 2016
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 difficult when Marina "sees" her father's murder, she has to figure out how to stop that. Is there anyone that she can trust? How will she survive in this new place with the ever ready threat of Russia following her through the gritty New York streets?

My thoughts:
This novel wrapped up some of my favorite things. First, I love a good mystery. While I often had a good idea what was going on, especially since some of the actions are projected a few chapters before, there were some surprises within the novel. The race to figure out how to stop her father's murder keeps the book moving quickly. There weren't a lot of chapters that I finished and felt like I could take a deep breath and place the book down for a day or two. Most of the chapters flew by and led you from one thing to the next.
Secondly, I was in ballet for eighteen years. It was what drew me to the book, and I wasn't disappointed. I wanted to linger through every dance description. I've even gone back and reread some of the passages. I can picture things within my mind and remember the relationships built within classes. While Marina worries that her dance partner cannot be trusted, I was pleased that he played a good role within her life. It was realistic to me and made me smile. I almost wanted to spend more time with Sveta and her dance performances than with Marina and her life outside of the dance classroom.
The only issue that I had with this book is the dialogue. The way that characters spoke was odd. They spoke in broken English, even if they were supposed to be from America. Marina goes from perfect English to an odd mixture of cliches and language learning skills. While I don't mind slang in most books, this just didn't flow right. In NCIS when Ziva messes up a cliche, it's silly. In this book, it's just awkward.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,206 followers
July 17, 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 interesting depth to her character and makes the change in her circumstances even more poignant.

The pace is perhaps a bit too brisk and could have done with a little slowing down so the readers could spend a bit more time in Moscow and seeing how ordinary life was led before everything was thrown into chaos. I would have also liked some more development where the side characters are concerned. The cast is not that full and more time certainly could have been spent on growing these characters, hewing out their individual personalities. I also think it would have been nice to read a couple of scenes with Sveta because though she is one of the most important characters in the narrative, she’s also present secondarily. Always in someone’s memory, or in someone else’s words.

The romance is one of the stronger parts of the novel. I like how it happens slowly and how the foundation is of any relationship is friendship. The friendship between females is also a strong plus for this novel and I applaud Kiem for taking care to develop it.

I think the novel would make a fantastic movie. It has all the elements for a blockbuster and I know that I’d be more keen on seeing it than some other books that are being turned into movies. As a book, there’s this prevailing sense of detachment from the incidents occurring and the characters present. I don’t know if it is because the novel and its plot is so far removed from me that I was unable to empathize or what. However, I did enjoy this novel. It was entertaining and if you are looking for entertainment, pick this one. Great beach read.
Profile Image for JoLee.
1,568 reviews59 followers
October 22, 2014
Review originally published at www.redletterreads.com

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, international espionage. There are a lot of things to love about this book! However, I wanted more of almost everything. More dancing. More intrigue. More character development. And, if we are going to have it at all, more of the supernatural. This is a slim tome, tallying to just 288 pages, and I really wish it was longer so that we could have more of all that great stuff. I felt like I was reading most of the book through a thin veil. It was as if I could never quite get a complete glimpse of any of the characters or the harrowing obstacles they had to navigate. This is probably exactly how Marina felt in a new country with new customs and a new language. On top of navigating all of that, Marina has no idea who to trust, where to turn, or how her visions of the future will come to pass. Probably best of all, Elizabeth Kiem's writing made me believe that Marina was not an American girl recast as a Russian, but a real Russian fugitive.

More at: http://www.intellectualrecreation.com...
Profile Image for Lindley.
266 reviews8 followers
August 17, 2013
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's descriptions of her new life in an American high school were good-they really conveyed her sense of being a stranger in a strange land.

Once Marina began her life in America, the book started to go off the rails a bit for me. I was confused about what was going on-much as Marina was herself. Yet that confusion ran deeper--it wasn't just that I was confused about who Marina should trust and who was working for whom, but also that I wasn't even clear on what Marina thought was going on from minute to minute. The story seemed muddled to me, and several plot devices were just kind of left hanging there, like Marina's ability to see flashes of future events. The ending was a bit abrupt and sudden--it seemed like things were tied up too neatly and too quickly.
Profile Image for Brandi Rae Fong.
1,115 reviews20 followers
September 2, 2013
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 kind of just left dangling. I'm assuming they will be addressed more in book two. This would have been a much stronger story without the visions, even if it meant the mother had to "just stumble upon state secrets."

On a side note, I've noticed quite a few 1980's books with a backdrop of the Cold War being published in the past two-ish years (Rose Sees Red by Castellucci; Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford). While these books interest me, I'm wondering how much teens know about this time period so that they can place the book in a wider historical context.
11 reviews
November 4, 2015

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 normalcy in her new life in America. Many of the characters’ true stories come out in the end as it is a spy book. Knowing who to believe and trust is crucial to Marina’s survival.

As a dancer, I enjoyed the first chapter that used actual dance terminology and was realistic to what you would expect in a dance studio. I wish this continued throughout the book, but I understand why it did not. The author was thorough and strong in the different topics discussed and I felt the book to be a very accurate presentation of a teenager with parties, friends, and school work to balance.
Profile Image for Erin.
1,109 reviews49 followers
July 8, 2017
4.5 star

"She knows something she should not. Something damaging. Something compromising. I don't know how. I didn't.. I mean I don't know how. You know that she has a sort of sixth sense."

Russia in the 80s was a dangerous place for everyone, there was the constant fear of losing your place or possibly saying something that someone else thought was bad. Marya's mother Sveta was a world known Russian Ballerina, because of that she was given special treatment most of the time, but it also means that the whole family was watched more closely by the government.

"my mother has been given certain freedoms—as an artistic trophy, a cultural emissary. She no longer performs, but she is still a diva. And she’s something of an insurance policy. She’s loyal."

Marya is also a top Ballerina one that will eventually most likely take her mother's place in the public eye. This is a spot that Marya wants, but is also unsure of it seems. She's unsure of it because both her and Sveta have these types of black outs or visions where they can see either the past (Sveta) or the future (Marya). Russian Ballet in the 80s was also changing more and more people were leaving for America in secret, leaving the rest of them being closely watched.
One night after practice Marya has a vision into the future that leaves her confused and upset. On top of that Sveta isn't there to pick her up. Once home her dad knows something, but won't tell her and things start to go downhill. Uncle Georgi who works in the black market and is known to cause more trouble than he is worth, actually proves to be useful in this situation saves their lives.
Once they've made it to America things are very different. They must start over without using their real names or previous careers.

"It won't end like this. This will end differently. I know how exactly, but it will end. And when it does, we can talk about the past and the future. But right now is just this present."

Marya (Marina now) really tries to make it work in her new world. She goes to school and makes friends, Lindsay who is, way to obsessed with mobsters. She misses ballet to much and she takes a risk with the help of her other new friend Ben's who is, also from Russia. With her father's approval and a new mission (to spy on the other Russians in the ballet) that could help them really improve their lives in America, Marina starts ballet again. After awhile, one thing leads to another and before you even realize it's happening things have gotten very complicated and dangerous. Between the Russian Mafia, Government Men (possibly Russian or maybe American.), and Marina's new friends she doesn't know who to really trust or tell her secrets to.

"I was wrong all along. I'd thought that this whole tragedy was caused by something bigger than me.. But it's not.
It's smaller than any of that...
It's men following order like dogs chase their tales."

Overall I really liked this story. The Russian parts at first were a little confusing, but after awhile I started to understand it a little bit. Knowing nothing about Ballet, and very little about Russia in general especially during the Cold War. I found it all very interesting, and once they got to America. Learning about how Russians were able to start over in America and the new dangers they faced were exciting and interesting.
While Marina did have to deal with a lot, she did it as good as she could and she handled it all better than I thought she would. She knew the risks she was taking, but did it because she thought it needed to be done. Her father was and with an Uncle who is known to cause trouble, she was basically alone for the most part when it came to learning how to juggle her ballet life and the role she plays there and her new school.

I can't wait to read the second book and she what happens next!

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February 15, 2018
This book deserves more than 5 stars; the absolute mystery keeping you on edge all the time and the detailed imagery carries you through with the story as though you were a part of it. It is a Cold War spy story set in the world of ballet. The protagonist, is a spunky teenage ballerina, whose abilities engage her in anti-Soviet spy activity. The heavy ballet activity added intensity to the book- the dance elements are not just a passing plot point. The plot moves quickly and Marina (the protagonist) is an engaging character. Moving along step by step with her moving to the U.S. is relatable to me, I lived in chaos back in my country, and moving here was a big adjustment and a new beginning. Like Marina, I was running away from my problems there. Marina also seems to become mature due to the events she's been through. I would definitely recommend this book, the development of the characters and change in plot are 100% engaging.
Profile Image for Kathleen Dixon.
3,628 reviews59 followers
January 28, 2023
Sometimes I look at a book that I put on my to-read list a few years ago and think "Um..." because it looks uninspiring or not what I like to read usually or ... . Happily, I'm usually wrong about that. Usually I had a good reason to add the book, and usually I enjoy it. And I enjoyed this very much.

Marina begins the book as a typical teenager - well, not so typical as she's the daughter of Russia's most-beloved ballerina, and she's as talented as her mother and is the star of her year at the Bolshoi, and because mother is a "favourite" they have a very nice apartment and all that - but typical in the way that she has no idea that her parents have any kind of life other than what is seen on the surface. When that suddenly changes, Marina finds herself fleeing Russia, living in a crummy flat in New York, with her father losing the plot, and who knows what is really going on?!

An excellent thriller for teens, set in the 1980s, and with great music and dance.
Profile Image for Thereadingbell.
1,351 reviews28 followers
October 21, 2019
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 Julliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother's talent 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 who she can and can't trust. It was a fast pace read.
Profile Image for indigo.
47 reviews
April 27, 2023
meh. I mean the concept was great you know immigrant life and historical, the execution? not so much. This could have been so good it was just a good concept, bad execution. it has also come to my attention that this is the first in a trilogy and I will not be reading the other two. at first, I was annoyed that it ended like that but knowing that it has more books to follow makes more sense. honestly, I think I might just google what happens because I don't have the patience and focus to read two more of these. maybe some people will like it but I like fast paced books and this was not it. if you like a casual read and you like slow books, this could be for you. but just not me. the only part where I slightly enjoyed it was when they were running from the law after pop died and misha was decoding the disc.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Vendea.
358 reviews
July 8, 2020
This wasn't...bad...but it really wasn't up my alley. It has everything you would expect from a YA spy novel so if that's your thing, by all means, go for it. Had I known a little less about Russia and Russian and ballet, I think I would have liked it more. Unfortunately the characters felt badly transplanted to me.
Profile Image for Katie Michna.
3 reviews
July 18, 2017
While I thoroughly was intrigued by the title, I felt the author fell short in developing the characters. The plot moved well then slowed almost to a halt by midbook, and the use of the f-word word was unnecessary.
Profile Image for madison.
13 reviews
August 6, 2017
I enjoyed this book quite a lot! It was written in very simple language, which was very nice, and the plot was very well thought out and well written. I loved all the characters a lot and they made the book really great. I'd definitely recommend this book to a friend!
Profile Image for Alana.
812 reviews1 follower
February 9, 2018
good book. i don't think teens of today will understand it. but great for the 70's and 80's kids who grew up loving a good spy bad spy story. a little choppy in time frame switches, ei here today and next two days later in a different spot with much happening and not covered.
Profile Image for Bethel.
887 reviews3 followers
February 13, 2022
The second book in the triology and the daughter, Marina and her father, who is jewish escape to America with the help of uncle Gosha. Her new love and her adventure in making The USA her home is a wonderful read. She is going to the Juliard school of dance so the dance goes on!
Profile Image for Brittney.
66 reviews
May 7, 2017
Actual rating: 3.5 stars.

It's sloooooow to start but ridiculously intriguing once it picks up!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 149 reviews

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