Book Review: The Prodigal Daughter
Reviewed by Jadidsa Perez
The Prodigal Daughter displays the horrors of replacing humanity with hatred
The Daughters of the New American Revolution series is Maria Ereni Dampman’s debut into the dystopian literary scene. The Prodigal Daughter, the second book in the chain, sets out to continue the plot introduced in The Governor’s Daughter.
The Prodigal Daughter begins with a summary of the final moments in The Governor’s Daughter, with Emma, Declan, and Adam being chased by patrolmen after escaping from the tyrannical, fascist government. Emma is captured once again while Declan and Adam flee to the desolate city of Philadelphia.
Emma’s back into the role of pawn in her father’s political game and her pregnancy with Declan’s son further complicates her position. The resistance continues to struggle between survival and waging war on the government. Any possibility of a democratic future is enthralled in a genocidal animus led by a calculating oppressor.
“I never imagined the destruction that would wipe this hub off the map, leaving the twisted metal and crumbling concrete standing as an eerie monument to just how fucked up this country has become.”
Maria Ereni Dampman does a wonderful job of worldbuilding here, creating a realistic and horrific America in the 2040s. There are obvious changes due to the regime, such as the patrolmen and the emphasis on purity, but I most enjoyed Dampman keeping city names to aid the reader traverse this dystopian future. It feels immersive in the best way possible. It’s especially fascinating to read the characters memories of how their lives were before the intolerant administration took hold, as a lot of their memories are set in our present time.
I also really appreciate how the stakes and consequences in this book are so heavy. Rather than trying to fluff up any of the plot, the book is as pragmatic as possible. Each character feels distinct from one another, and the book switches points of view of a number of them. Even without the name marking them, I could tell the difference between each of them. They have their own personal conflicts that make caring about them easy.
“Not speaking up and continuing to unquestioningly follow orders fully knowing they were wrong—these things make me so much worse than the people that honestly believed the administration’s lies.”
On the other hand, I wonder if Emma and the dialogue could have been a bit more complex. She’s portrayed as sweet and perfect despite who her father is. Characters like Declan have gripping internal monologues, but Emma can feel stagnant at times. For someone who willingly leaves behind everything she knows to fight for what she believes in, I can’t help but feel that I wanted more from her.
I would recommend The Prodigal Daughter to anyone looking for a smart and mature dystopian novel with an interest in intersectionality and race. It’s an eye-opening read that is hard to put down.
Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopia
Print Length: 470 pages
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