Review: Skandal by Lindsay Smith

Skandal
Lindsay Smith

Roaring Brook Press
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.
Released April 7, 2015
336 pages
YA / Alt History / SciFi

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The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind.

My mind is mine alone.

Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia's allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal.

Skandal suffered from “I really need a heavy recap of everything that happened in the previous book” syndrome because even though it wasn’t that long ago that I read Sekret, the first book in the series, I honestly couldn’t remember who was who or what was going on. I remembered Yulia and her talent in reading the memories off of inanimate objects, but the names, skills and history of events of the other characters left me grasping at fragments of memories. Because of this it took me awhile to fully get immersed in Skandal.

Despite that hiccup, this second book is still an interesting and engaging look at an alternate universe where psychic spies were a reality during the Cold War.

SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES, SEKRET, AHEAD

Yulia is now stateside after her extraction by her father at the end of Sekret, along with her boyfriend Valentin. Her mother and younger brother are still under the control of her arch nemesis, the big bad war mongering Rostov, who wants nothing more than the make the current Cold War hot. Yulia finds herself in a totally unfamiliar place with unfamiliar cultures, having to work with people who can’t even begin to trust her despite her father’s reputation in the CIA. She’s put on a team with a  few American psychic girls as they try to prevent a ring of Russian psychic spies from attacking a UN summit that could make the difference between a uneasy peace and full out war.

Once again the story is told from Yulia’s point of view, but instead of her focusing on learning her talents in a mostly familiar environment, she’s trying to push her talents in a totally unfamiliar world. This makes the character far more full of self-doubt and worrisome than in the first book. While the spy craft remains engaging, Yulia’s internal monologue often becomes a merry-go-round of self-doubt and questioning the motives of everyone around her. It can occasionally get tedious when all I wanted was for her to get back into the swing of things.

There are few story beats that I felt could have been expanded on, and Yulia’s prowess as a budding geneticist seems to grow by unfathomable leaps and bounds during the course of just a few days’ access to a college level lab, but the implausibilities are a little bit easier to ignore consider this is a book about psychic spies. The one I had the hardest time looking past was Yulia splicing genes together during the middle of a high speed car ride. That… just seemed ridiculous and impossible.

Skandal tied up with a suitable ending that left plenty of promise for a third book in the series that I hope leaves a lot of Yulia’s doubt about herself, her family and her place in the world behind so that she can return to being an interesting spy. There’s still plenty of Cold War espionage left in this series to explore as the psychic elements continue to change and evolve along with the characters. I just think this one might have suffered a little from second book syndrome and me being unable to maintain the back stories of characters over the course of a year without more thorough reminders in the text.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.