After a three-year wait, local writer Michael Seidelman’s Garden of Syn trilogy comes to a fast-paced, satisfying conclusion.
We first met our protagonist, Synthia Wade, in No One Dies in the Garden of Syn, which was released in 2016. (All of the books are published by Chewed Pencil Press.) A teenager when we encounter her, she is being parented by her aunt, as her parents went missing when she was 5 years old. In Book 1, due to circumstances beyond her control, Syn falls into another universe – one in which she can breathe easily, her cystic fibrosis nonexistent. But all is not healthy in the garden, as this other place is called, and Syn must rise to many challenges and challengers to set things right.
There are multiple universes in this trilogy, each with their own Syn, and, in at least one of them, Syn has a sister, Beth. The second book, Everyone Dies in the Garden of Syn, which came out in 2018, focuses on Syn’s efforts to rescue Beth, who has been kidnapped. Unfortunately, because of Syn’s actions, the healing powers of the garden disappear, hence, the name of this part of the story. Syn must take particular care, given her CF.
Many people die in the second book. So, at the beginning of the third book, feeling responsible and guilty for the tragedies, Syn doesn’t want to return to the garden. However, a determined friend-turned-enemy forces Syn to finish what she started. In the conclusion to the series, Too Young to Die in the Garden of Syn, Syn must fight to save the garden and its inhabitants, at the risk of her own life.
The plot that runs through the trilogy is complex. Characters thought dead turn out not to be, characters that seem like allies turn out not to be and vice versa, and, given the multiverses, there are numerous versions of key personnel. As well, the story tackles many ethical issues, mainly involving medical research and experimentation. The novels also illustrate that who the hero of a story is depends on who’s telling the story – the bad guys in Seidelman’s fictional worlds don’t think they’re in the wrong; in fact, they have good reason to feel aggrieved and betrayed.
The action doesn’t lose momentum in this third book and Syn and her allies must race and jump around universes, fight and think for their lives – and the lives of many others. Though I was both hoping and fearing Seidelman would wrap things up more darkly, I think he made the right choice for his young adult audience.
Too Young to Die in the Garden of Syn was worth the wait.
For articles on the previous books in the series, including an interview with Michael Seidelman, visit jewishindependent.ca/first-book-of-trilogy-now-out and jewishindependent.ca/persistence-a-common-theme.