Review: The Syndicate by Sophie Davis

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May 11, 2016 by Zoë

The Syndicate by Sophie Davis is set in the 2400’s and deals with illegal time travel technology. Stassi is part of an underground organization that travels back in time to acquire artifacts for their wealthy clients. She and her partner Gaige are sent to 1920’s Paris in order to acquire the manuscript of a book that has been lost in time. However, once they’ve arrived, they find that they must also investigate a series of mysterious and gruesome murders.

The premise to this book is so good. Time travel, thieving, secrets. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations. First of all, the characters constantly make references to pop culture that was popular at least 400 years before they were born. No references are made to anything closer to their time except for a remake of The Great Gatsby. Along with this, they also talk like they’re teenagers from the 21st century. Even worse, they do this no matter what time period they’re in. So that’s not so great in terms of believable world building.

Secondly, the plotting just isn’t executed very well. First of all, all the important clues are spoon-fed to the reader. This felt ominous, that felt ominous, everything is ominous. There isn’t any room left for the reader to infer things for him or herself.

Despite this heavy-handedness, the plot is also not very good. The book drags significantly and feels like it should have been shorter. The mystery subplot, which I found the most interesting, was very, very badly executed.

Spoilers:

In a good mystery, the villain is someone you’ve met before. Maybe it’s only the bellboy or the person who helps you after you come back to the present day from the past. Maybe it’s your partner. It doesn’t matter much who it is, but it needs to be someone who the reader has seen before so that the reader feels a sense of satisfaction when the reveal happens.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Don’t bother trying to figure out who the murderer is because it’s a random.

Spoilers finished

My final two complaints are pretty minor compared to the major issues I had with the plot. First of all, there was a bit of instalove. Stassi didn’t seem to be very serious about her job and very quickly lets her feelings get the better of her. Though it’s also very unclear why she has these feelings. This is an obvious set-up for the rest of the series, but I’ll let you seek out the answers in those books on your own–I won’t be reading them.

Secondly–and this seems to be a trend in YA fiction in general–there’s a long passage where Stassi describes all of the beautiful clothing she’s going to wear and then hastens to add that she’s not actually that into fashion and it’s not really her thing. I think this trend is partially a clumsy attempt on the authors’ part to add more detail and also an attempt to portray the main character as relatable to readers. It doesn’t read as relatable to me, though; it just makes me think the narrator isn’t very self-aware.

Anyway, this book probably will appeal to some people (and has several good reviews on Goodreads), but it really wasn’t my thing. I want a better constructed plot and I want a main character who isn’t quite so distractible.

“This is why you came to Paris. This is why you dragged Gaige on this run from hell. Answers.”

I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley.

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