The Torturer’s Daughter by Zoe Cannon – author interview and book review



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.

Now available in: AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLES, SMASHWORDS, KOBO, and in print soon!

The Interview

Hi, Zoe. Thank you for sharing your time with us for this interview. I hope that the readers of this blog will learn more about the person behind the wonderfully written novel, The Torturer’s Daughter. So without further ado, let’s start.

1. Since when did you start writing and what was it about?

I started writing not long after I learned to read on my own. To me, the one was a natural extension of the other; I loved books, and it only seemed natural that I would write some of my own. The first book I ever wrote starred the characters from Scooby-Doo, my favorite TV show at the time, and it was illustrated with stick figures. My writing has gotten a bit more sophisticated since then – although I’m not sure my artistic skills have, so it’s a good thing my books don’t need illustrations!

2. What inspired you to write a dystopian novel such as Torturer’s Daughter?

I’ve always loved dystopian stories. I’ve seen many different variations on the theme, from classic totalitarian dystopias like 1984 to stories set in post-apocalyptic worlds. My favorites tend to be the ones set in repressive totalitarian societies – but in books like 1984 everything tends to be stylized, exaggerated, larger than life. When I wrote The Torturer’s Daughter, I wanted to explore what a more realistic version of that kind of repressive society would look like. What if the dystopian world looked familiar enough to almost be the world we know… but at the same time it was a world gone horribly wrong?

3.Which do you prefer to use when  writing: pen and paper, or computer?

I’ve always preferred writing on the computer (to the consternation of my teachers in elementary school, who thought that typing an assignment rather than writing it by hand was a sign of plagiarism!). I’ve always been kind of clumsy with my hands, so computers have been a lifesaver for me. Typing lets me keep up with my thoughts, while the slower pace of writing by hand means I’m likely to forget what I wanted to say by the time I get around to saying it. I also like the convenience of being able to change things as much as I want, as soon as I want, without having to cross stuff out or recopy the whole thing. Writing by hand has its place; it’s what I prefer for my personal journal. But for fiction, it’s typing all the way.

4. Who are your literary inspirations? Name a few authors.

Orson Scott Card is a major inspiration of mine. I’m not a fan of his personal philosophies, but he is an amazing writer. He was one of the first adult-fiction authors I read as a kid, and I like his work now as much as I did then. His philosophical science fiction always feels meaty and satisfying, while staying engaging at the same time.

I discovered Lois McMaster Bujold more recently, but she has quickly become one of my favorite authors, and someone I would be happy to emulate. Reading her prose feels like watching someone practice martial arts – it isn’t flashy, it doesn’t call attention to itself, but it does what it sets out to do elegantly and efficiently, with no missteps and nothing wasted. The vision of the future that she portrays in her books is one of the most plausible fictional futures I’ve seen, probably because it seems to be based on the premise of, “In the future, people will be the same as they’ve always been.” But one of the best things about her books is how she often sets characters up as other – strange, different, sometimes even villainous – and then makes them not only sympathetic but relatable, without changing anything about them. The underlying message I take from her books is that there’s no such thing as an “other” – there are only people. That’s a message that matters a lot to me, and it’s one of the main themes of The Torturer’s Daughter.

Holly Lisle is another inspiration for me, less for her work itself – although I love her books, especially her Korre series – and more for everything she’s done to help other authors. My writing wouldn’t be what it is today without her writing courses, and her everyday insights into the life of a working writer gave me a realistic view of what the writing life entails long before I started publishing.

5. Any current/future projects?

My next project is going to be another story set in the same world as The Torturer’s Daughter. I’m not ready to share anything about it just yet, but I can tell you that fans of The Torturer’s Daughter will like it. If you want to find out when the new book is available, you can sign up for my mailing list here:

6. If you were living in that setting in the book, will you also blindly believe the Internal and its cause?

I’d like to think I wouldn’t. Don’t we all want to believe that if we were living in a dystopian world, we would be the ones to see it for what it really was, rather than being taken in by the lies that everyone else falls for? But it isn’t that simple. If I were raised in Becca’s world, if that world were all I knew, what would I believe? What other frame of reference would I have? I’d like to believe I would understand the truth and fight for what was right… but the truth is, I really don’t know.

7. Any message to your readers?

There can be a lot of division between readers over what to read and how to read it. Is literary fiction snooty? Is romance trashy? Is YA fiction immature? Are ebooks the doom of the literary world as we know it? But we all love books, and that’s what matters. Just keep reading – that’s the important thing. Read what you love, no matter what anyone else thinks about it.

About the Author:

Zoe Cannon writes about the things that fascinate her: outsiders, societies no sane person would want to live in, questions with no easy answers, and the inner workings of the mind. If she couldn’t be a writer, she would probably be a psychologist, a penniless philosopher, or a hermit in a cave somewhere. While she’ll read anything that isn’t nailed down, she considers herself a YA reader and writer at heart. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and a giant teddy bear of a dog, and spends entirely too much time on the internet.

*You may contact Zoe Cannon in her website at

The Review

The novel was set in a dystopian novel controlled by a totalitarian government. This was evident in the rich description in the story of uniform housings with stark white walls and security cameras, enforcers guarding the area, mandatory civilization classes in school, whistle blowers, as well as executioners for violators of the laws. These depict a fearful scenario for the reader. Starting the story with the main character worrying about her best friend who was captured by the government, it successfully caught the interest of the reader. This opening piqued the curiosity of the reader and filled her mind with lots of why and how questions. The reader admits that this is one effective way of keeping an audience on hold. As the story progressed, there were more evidences on the existence of a repressive government.

The characters were richly described mentally and emotionally, if not that much physically. The main character, Becca, was portrayed as a teenager living inside her safe bubble. She might be living in a dictatorial government, but the author smartly created the feeling that Becca was immune to that. One factor that made her feel protected was the fact that her mother was the regime’s torturer for violators.

However, something changed when her best friend, Heather, was caught by the government and Becca had to go to plead for Heather to be saved. The author increased the tension when Heather became allegedly involved in dissident activities. In an oppressive government, the reader has knowledge on how bad it would look like for someone to oppose the agency. And the author has also researched on that.

The writer created a vicious world of oppression in the form of The Internal, the government in the story. It successfully, and a bit morbidly, described how a dissident must be punished when he was proven to be guilty of nonconformist activities and/or propaganda. The theme suddenly shifted to an enclosed room with a dim yellow light illuminating the plain concrete walls and bloodstains.

Fortunately for the reader, the darkness didn’t stop there. The author had a foresight of not creating a lull when the tension was already climbing in the story. The darkness continued when Heather’s parents were executed because of treason to the government and their admission of doing so. Heather, as their daughter, was put in a difficult situation which sprouted doubts in Becca’s mind about the system.

The author also made a realistic conflict in the novel. The main character found herself trapped between believing her mother and everything Internal symbolizes and doubting the entire system by believing Heather and Becca’s new friend, Jake. Becca was believably created to have crises in her identity, beliefs, and principles – the common situations teens find themselves in.

Throughout the novel, the reader kept on guessing on Becca’s actions. The entire story was gripping! It made the reader frustrated whenever she couldn’t find clues for the solution of the main character’s dilemma. As a result, the novel became a page-turner. The reader could not put it down.

Overall, The Torturer’s Daughter proved not only a dystopian, but a thrilling novel. It was a rollercoaster ride filled with paranoia, confusing choices, and doubtful principles. It became a guessing game and the reader just smiled to herself when the author outwitted her in the end. The characters and plot seem believable and it made the reader wonder on how many societies in remote areas are suffering from this kind of set-up.

I give two-thumbs up and a big toe for this creation by Zoe Cannon. I only have two complains though – there wasn’t enough history given about the government and how it turned out to be like that; and there wasn’t any announcement for a sequel.

**You can also find my review in Goodreads.

What do you think? Interested in reading it? Go on and try!

Have questions for Zoe? Just hit “Comment” and ask your question. Zoe will be glad to answer them. 🙂

13 thoughts on “The Torturer’s Daughter by Zoe Cannon – author interview and book review

  1. It is! The author emailed me prior to this book review. As I said, I won this book over a giveaway and she contacted me because of that. 🙂 Have you read my recent book review? It is a nice read, too and it is available for free until December 13.

Share your thoughts, I would love to read them!