Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Review: Skandal by Lindsay Smith

Title: Skandal
Series: Sekret #2
Author: Lindsay Smith
Published: April 7, 2015 by Macmillain
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

I read Sekret [My Review] a year ago and was completely impressed with this debut. It was such a fascinating read with an amazing historical setting, an interesting magical system and world-building, and complex characters. So I was really excited for more of this series. And while it was a really enjoyable read, it didn't quite reach the level of the first book for me.

One of the absolutely fantastic thing about this series is the historical setting. I've always been so interested in the Cold War era. The contrasting ideologies, world powers competing for control, and threat of war. It was a time of fear which really makes for an interesting book. Lindsay absolutely captures that again here in Skandal. There is so much suspense and conflict in this book. In Sekret the book took place in Soviet Russia, but here we move to the United States and get to explore Washington, D.C. In DC, things are the same in some way and very different in other ways. It was great to see sort of an expanded world for this series and see the era from a different and more well-rounded angle. Lindsay also does a brilliant job of incorporating historical figures and events of the 1960's. To some degree the historical events she chose in Skandal had higher stakes which gave the book an even more dramatic turn. But it may have been the higher stakes that made it hard for me to connect fully with the book. I can usually suspend disbelief when I'm reading but for some reason I had a bit of an issue with it here in Skandal. I can't quite put my fingers on why, but it may have been the main historical plot.

However, the plot as a whole was a definite plus for me. This series is essentially a YA spy thriller, which I love. In this one the characters start working for the CIA and go on these amazing mission similar to the ones that they went on in the first book. And like I said the stakes are higher, the missions are bigger, and the consequences have global proportions. And because of all of this the general mystery was bigger. Sekret had some great plot twists, a few I predicted and one I did not, but Skandal was just one big mystery. As the book drew to a close I had no idea how it was all going to end. And while I wasn't shocked with how it concluded I loved the plot and pacing. It was a little more slower paced but things built to a thrilling conclusion and I love that in my books.

But this book isn't just a spy thriller, it's not even just historical fiction, it's a historical fantasy. And I enjoy the fantasy elements of the story just as much. You may know that I am a sucker for a magical system that is basically "the characters have superpowers." They're not usually super creative but they are my favorites. That is the case with the fantasy elements in this series, the characters have psychic powers. In Sekret we were introduced to Yulia and her ability to see the memories of a person or thing by touching. Here we get to explore her powers more. It was fascinating to see her powers grow and develop as her opinion of them grew and developed. We also got to explore the powers of a ton of new characters (more on them later). Many of them had powers similar to characters from the first book but with small variations. All of the powers were so complex and interesting. It really added an interesting and engaging dimension to the story. And while I usually enjoy a more subtle world-building, with Skandal I would have liked to spend more time learning about the psychic powers, especially with some of the new characters,

And speaking of those characters. While I really do enjoy them, I didn't quite feel the spark that I did in the first book. Yulia is still a really fantastic protagnist. She's a reluctant hero, which I always enjoy, and in the face of adversity she shows a lot of inner strength. She's tough and resourceful and has always been the kind of character I can get behind. We also got to spend a lot more time with her father in this book and that was definitely interesting. He's always been kind of a dubious figure and that didn't change in this book. His powers are really interesting and he's super complex. Same thing can be said for the group's antagonists. They have really cool powers and use them in a really sinister way. Then there are all the Americans. What I liked most about them is that I seriously didn't trust any of them. I found myself spending a lot of the book wondering why they were acting certain ways and therefore I held them a little bit at arms length. But my biggest disappointment in this book was Valya. I love Valya, I love Yulia and Valya together. I felt like he was under utilized here and I wanted more of the romance. They are such a sweet couple and everything they had been through together I wanted more. I mean there were some really great moments, don't get me wrong, I just wish Valya had a bigger role. In general I just didn't fully connect with most of the characters like I did in the first book.

On the whole Skandal is a really interesting and unique read. The historical setting is full of drama, the fantasy elements add a really fascinating twist, the plot is engaging and mysterious, and the characters are complex and likable. I think I'm just not really ready to let it all go. It wasn't the perfectly satisfying end to the series for me but it was a good read.

I give Skandal by Lindsay Smith 8.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you liked Sekret then definitely check this book out. Get more Yulia and see how the other half lives is this complex world full of psychic spies. If you are looking for a unique read and are a fan of spy thrillers or historical fantasy then check this book out.

Have you read Skandal? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. This is my first time hearing about the author and the book, and it already looks so interesting! I love historical fiction :D And like you, I'm always fascinated by the Cold War era (or basically any historical event in WWII) because I love learning about it. I might want to check out Skandal real soon and see it for myself. Thanks for the review :D

    Jillian @ Jillian's Books

    1. If you love historical fiction and the Cold War era then you MUST read this series. It definitely gives an extremely interesting look at the time period.