by Sarah Fine
Read: December 2 - 9, 2014
Published: October 16, 2012 by Amazon Children's Publishing
Source: Netgalley (THANK YOU, Random House!)
Tags: YA, Suicide, Afterlife, Fantasy elements
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands 1 of 3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
“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.
I've waited forever to start the Guards of the Shadowlands series, although I've been excited about these books since the Sanctum released two years ago. When I heard about a cliffhanger in the second installment, I decided to wait until they were all available to read them together. It's well documented that reading series back-to-back is one of my favorite things to do. This week I finally decided to make that decision a reality and picked up the first book. Well…I'm very sad to say that I didn't like it as much as I hoped I would. There were some elements that I did love a lot, but some that I didn't. In all, I feel like a black sheep and I don't know if I should keep reading the series or not. I need help!
I found the set up of this story to be compelling. The idea of this dark city filled with lost people was creepy and fascinating in a horrible way. I could imagine the despair and loneliness of the people who had so desperately wanted to stop their suffering on earth, only to end up in an even worse place. Although what is even more awful is the fact that few of them realize it. It is terrifying to imagine being trapped in that place. Lela's connection to that place, made my heart break for her, and it was devastating when her friend Nadia became stuck there.
In the beginning, I could understand Lela's intense attachment to Nadia, the one girl who had welcomed her in a life filled with rejection, horrible foster homes and peers either being mean to her or afraid of her. I couldn't imagine the magnitude of Lela's grief and horror at discovering first that Nadia had killed herself, and then the realization that Nadia had been sent to such a miserable place. I admired Lela's determination to rescue her friend, and though a little crazy, I thought she was brave.
Another thing I loved about Sanctum was Malachi (of course!). This fierce guard, living and fighting in a city of suffering. I wanted to know who he was and how he got there, and the reveal of all of that was so well done. I could understand he and Lela's attraction to each other, and the slow building romance they formed was beautiful. The more I got to know Malachi, the more I wanted for him. Objectively, I was glad to see that Lela didn't give up everything for this guy she'd just met, but emotionally, my personal mission became Malachi. I also enjoyed the secondary characters in this book, and would love more from them, especially Ana and Raphael.
Here comes where I had trouble with this book. I very quickly lost any interest in Nadia, which slowly eroded my connection to Lela. While I admired Lela's determination to rescue her friend, it got to be too much when Lela was neglecting everything else, including reason to complete her mission. She put herself and others in danger for a cause that I had ceased to care about, and she did much of it foolishly and naively. Lela didn't think, and, unfortunately, after a while I just became annoyed at her. I appreciate that Lela is a girl with flaws, and I very much hope that we begin to see some growth from her. But I am such an emotional reader, and I can't help how she made me feel when I was reading this story.
Secondly, I must admit that I didn't really understand the Mazikin or the mythology around them. I understand why they were needed to give this book more danger, and they certainly were frightening. But, beyond that, they seemed a random addition to add chaos. I'm hoping that future books will explain who/what they are better. But in this one, I couldn't connect them to any afterlife mythology, or understand what they were doing.
As much as reading a series together is always my favorite - I love the rush of getting emotionally involved in an entire story - I'm starting to feel daunted by multiple books. In this case, the idea of 2 more installments of pain for these characters - let's be honest here, I'm mostly talking about Malachi - is a little overwhelming for me. I'm especially worried about being caught in middle book syndrome in the next one.
Reading through this review again, I feel like I should have liked this more, so I don't know if it's when I read it, or what, but I'm so sad I didn't. Does the mythology get stronger? Am I going to connect better to Lela in the future? Is the pain worth the eventual reward? I need your help, all you lovers of this series!
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low. Anticipation of the direction of book 2, but ends on a settled moment. I know that's deceptive, however.