Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine

July 11, 2013 Book Reviews 16 ★★★★★

Review: Sanctum by Sarah FineSanctum by Sarah Fine
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands #1
Published by Amazon Children's Publishing on October 16th, 2012
Pages: 433
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

"My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple."

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn't just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t—the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

My Sanctum experience can be summed up by this tweet


It took me almost a month to read Sanctum, I drove my blogger bestie to distraction because of it but sometimes a book comes along that is…Magic and you’re so caught up in it’s world that you never want to say goodbye. My last experience of this was reading Harry Potter so Sanctum was a very special book indeed.

It had everything I could possibly want in YA. Strong, sassy, confident heroine who’s likeable, NOT perfect, willing to sacrifice her happiness for her FRIENDS rather than a man, a hero who’s honourable, kind, not abusive, not manipulative, who has standards and values, and a story of hope, love and courage. The FEELS! It’s taken me almost a month even sit down and *think* about writing this and heads up I will not do it justice. YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!

Lela has had a tough life, she’s dealt with things no child should ever have to deal with and to protect herself she’s crafted a hardened mental shell to shield herself from trusting anybody with her heart and body. When Lela meets Nadia – seemingly perfect, peppy, high-school queen bee and saves her life, Lela is the one who ends up being saved. For the first time in her life she has a friend who cares for her, wants to protect her and pulls her into the land of the living. When tragedy strikes and Nadia kills herself Lela is left bereft. Why would this girl who has everything going for her, friends, family, college want to take her life? Sinking into depression, Lela seeks answers no-one can provide. On the day she finally lets go of her friends ghost Lela’s own life ends by accident and the place she’s only seen in her nightmares becomes a frightening reality. Can Lela pass through the Suicide Gates, find her friend in Hell and escape allowing them both the peace and happiness they crave or will her ultimate sacrifice be in vain?

This is a story of hope in a place where hope goes to die. Sarah Fine uses her experience as a Child Psychologist to craft a stunning, balanced, realistic portrayal of characters who believe that life is a gift they aren’t worthy of accepting. The level of emotion and depth of feeling is seriously impressive and Fine handles the subject matter with a sensitivity that is superb.

The plot is highly original, captivating and beautifully written. From page one this unique story grips you and immerses you in this fight for love, freedom and optimism in a prison of darkness.

The world building is phenomenal- rare is it to truly be able to suspend disbelief and lose yourself in a paranormal world that is so frighteningly real you can almost smell the fear, desperation and despair.

The characters are unforgettable. Lela is bad ass. Unlike so many YA heroines who spend precious time twirling their hair and wringing their hands over a boy, Lela’s only thought is to save her friend and she’ll do anything to ensure her success. Selfless and devoted, Lela is a character you care for so deeply you don’t question the fact that she gave up her chance of heaven to save her friend her love for Nadia is so deeply engrained in her being. Lela’s past is heartbreaking and its lasting effects on her are difficult to experience as she’s forced to confront the darkest corners of her memories but she handles it with such grace and bravery it is truly admirable. her journey through the suicide gates is unforgettable.

Of course there’s a boy! And what a boy! Can I get a hallelujah that there’s an author out here who doesn’t believe for a man to be sexy he has to be obsessive and controlling? Malachi is the human leader of the Guard, a group of soldiers who  patrol the Shadowlands. Forced to pay off his debt for taking his life by acting as protector of this hellish wasteland, Malachi recognises a kindred spirit in Lela and doesn’t hesitate to offer his help and guidance. If you look up swoon in the dictionary – Malachi will be there under examples. Quiet, thoughtful, steadfast, he is the definition of boy-every-girl-wants-to-meet-and-mothers-want-their-daughters-to-marry. His past is utterly heartbreaking as he confides in Lela as to his origins, if there was ever a soul worthy of eternity outside the gates of hell, Malachi is truly it.

Together the combination of Malachi’s strength and quiet confidence and Lela’s courage and relentless spirit makes for an enthralling adventure that you don’t want to end!

The secondary characters of Ana, Nadia and Raphael are brilliantly drawn and instead of skimming over their passages I was fully invested in their stories too.

Sanctum is a rare book – a diamond in a mine of mediocrity. I ordered my dad to read it, my big sister, my book club, I’m on a one-woman mission to get everyone aboard the Sanctum train because trust me it’s worth it.  From start to finish I was hooked into this story filled with action, passion, love, boatloads of sexual tension and above all friendship, something used as a hook and bait in many other books only to be cast aside for romance. Swoon-worthy, emotional, captivating, there aren’t enough fangirling adjectives in the dictionary to convince you so I’ll end on the same note I started – YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! Got it?


16 Responses to “Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine”

  1. tonyalee

    Yes, you were driving me crazy taking forever to read this! TOLD YOU SO 😛

    Great review hon! You pretty much nailed it! 🙂

  2. Wendy

    I have it! I think you told me to buy it! And now I know I need to read it asap!! This seriously sounds amazing. And I’m with Jessica on this, what an awesomely written review!!

  3. trishhannon111

    Great review, I feel like a parrot saying this but honestly all your review are great! This books sounds amazing, I remember all the tweets and was looking forward to this review. Gone on to my buy-soon list! And yay for a non possessive, non controlling man 🙂

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