Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
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An empty mind is a safe mind.
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
I picked up Sekret, Lindsay Smith’s debut novel, hoping for a good historical novel with some hints of intrigue and romance. What I got was something so much better! Lindsay Smith puts a whole new spin on the Cold War and spies both Russia and the United States.
The characters really make Sekret so amazing. Each character is so complex and amazingly well-developed, especially for the first book in a new series. Yulia is a very family focused young girl who just so happens to have psychic abilities that the KGB would like to exploit. She’s a strong, independent girl but her family is both her biggest blessing and her biggest weakness. She will do anything to protect them, including using her abilities for the KGB. However, her morals never change, no matter what she is forced to do. She learns to cope with her job with the KGB but she will not stop trying to get away. She’s feisty and smart and such a wonderful main character. The other psychics in the employ of the KGB are all very different people. Some of them are forced to be there, others are there to please their family (also members of the KGB.) Yulia connects with two very different boys, one who is forced to be there and the other who chose to be there. Sergei and Valentin were both great characters but in very different ways. From the start, Valentin wanted out of the KGB and he was willing to do anything to leave. He and Yulia originally bonded over their shared hatred but that wasn’t all they had in common. They quickly grew to become friends and watching their relationship develop was so fun. Sergei was easygoing and funny. He helped lighten the mood of the book, that’s for sure. It was clear from the start that he wanted more than friendship from Yulia but friendship is what he got. That friendship forced him to finally look at what his life was like and Sergei really grew as a person throughout the course of the book.
Villains aren’t usually as good as Rostov, the head of the psychic division of the KGB. He was supremely creepy. He was willing to do whatever it took to restore Stalinist Russia. He is a cold blooded killer but the worst part is that nobody knows it and nobody can prove it. His ability as a scrubber (as Yulia calls him) allows him to erase things from people’s minds. Even if someone saw him murder someone, he could just erase and they would be none the wiser. It’s a truly scary thought to wonder if you’ve seen or done something but not be able to remember it. Yulia must go through that feeling many times throughout the course of Sekret.
The story takes time to get into but it’s worth it once you make it past the more informative first chapters. The first few chapters are just spent building the world and explaining the abilities that people find themselves with. I will admit that it’s a little dull and made for some slow reading but, like I said, it’s worth it once you get past those chapters. This truly is an espionage thriller. The US and Russia are in the space race and the KGB is determined to help Russia stay ahead of the race but they can’t do that if the US manage to steal their plans. When the psychic division of the KGB discover that the US spies are also employing a scrubber like Rostov, the stakes become even higher. It’s a pulse pounding race to the finish and there will be plenty of shocking revelations for readers throughout Sekret.
Overall, Sekret is one of the most thrilling, unique historical fiction novels I’ve read in recent times. I look forward to continuing this series and I highly recommend this debut from Lindsay Smith.
What others are saying about Sekret:
Allodoxophobia’s review: “For me, rarely does every aspect of a book come together as seamlessly as it does in Sekret.”
Step Into Fiction’s review: “Sekret was an enjoyable YA sci fi spy novel that may have you checking rooms for bugs and wondering who is listening to your thoughts.”
I Swim For Oceans’ review: “Overall though, I quite enjoyed Sekret, despite a few hiccups along the way.”