Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review : The Torturer's Daughter

Author : Zoe CANNON
Title : The Torturer's Daughter
Format : e-book
Published : 22/10/2012

When her best friend Heather calls in the middle of the night, Becca assumes it’s the usual drama. Wrong. Heather’s parents have been arrested as dissidents – and Becca’s mother, the dystopian regime’s most infamous torturer, has already executed them for their crimes against the state.

To stop Heather from getting herself killed trying to prove her parents’ innocence, Becca hunts for proof of their guilt. She doesn’t expect to find evidence that leaves her questioning everything she thought she knew about the dissidents… and about her mother.

When she risks her life to save a dissident, she learns her mother isn’t the only one with secrets – and the plot she uncovers will threaten the lives of the people she loves most. For Becca, it’s no longer just a choice between risking execution and ignoring the regime’s crimes; she has to decide whose life to save and whose to sacrifice.

It’s easy to be a hero when you can save the world, but what about when all you can do is choose how you live in it? THE TORTURER’S DAUGHTER is a story about ordinary teenage life amidst the realities of living under an oppressive regime… and the extraordinary courage it takes to do what’s right in a world gone wrong.
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A lot of dystopian fiction has passed through my hands over the months but this book is really one of the best I've read so far. The only reason it falls a half point short of the 5 flowers, is that I had a little dip halfway the novel which made me wonder if I wanted to read it to the end or not. And a truly amazing novel should grip me from start to finish ...

The book is set in a totalitarian regime, where even a offhand comment on the gouvernment is enough to be hauled into Processing for questioning and be branded a dissident.  Once the dissident has outlived his usefulness for the regime, he inevitably meets an untimely end either in a private or a publicly broadcasted execution.  The society created by the author is incredibly oppressive and realistic in all its horror. It takes the adage "Trust No One" to a whole new level, where cameras and obedient citizens are constantly keeping an eye on every move one makes. The book follows Becca in her quest to help her friend Heather, whose parents have been arrested and executed. While trying to prove their guilt, she discovers truths that rock her world and make her question everything she believes in and everyone she cares about.
I will not be someone who abandons my principles as soon as they become inconvenient. I will not be someone who says that certain things have to be done… as long as somebody else does them.
- Becca in The Torturer's Daughter

Unlike in a lot of other young adult dystopian books, the characters of the books can't be categorised in pure black or white, and their different shades of grey make them all the more human.  The good guys have their parts of darkness and flaws and I ended up warming up to some of the "evil" characters as well.  I could really relate to the main character of Becca and like her, I began to question everyone's possible ulterior motives.  Living in that kind of environment would make, slowly but surely, even the mentally strongest person paranoid.  The book may not be action packed in Hunger Games style, it is nevertheless fastpaced and it keeps the reader on his toes, until the unpredictable finale.

This novel was really thought provoking.  What would I do if I were faced with the situation Becca is in?  Who would I be willing to sacrifice? How would I balance out the lives of the people I care about? Making up your mind is "easy" when it only involves yourself, but every decision you make, whether to act or not, has consequences on the world and the people around you.  And finally, what matters is that at the end of the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and not hate the person you see.

Living by your principles will always be the harder path. But you have to do it anyway. You have to do what’s right no matter how hard it gets, or one day you’ll find out you’ve become somebody you can’t live with.
- Raleigh Dalcourt in The Torturer's Daughter

I quite liked the fact that it was a standalone novel, as opposed to the other dystopian fiction works which usually come in trilogies, but I just discovered through Zoe Cannon's website that there will be sequel published in the near future.  It will be hard to beat or equal the first instalment, but I look forward to hearing more from Becca.


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