Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sanctum by Sarah Fine

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. 


  1. I really enjoyed this novel--and was quite disappointed by all the relationship drama in the second--but I found the third installment to be a worthy conclusion to the series. The world-building is definitely expanded upon as the series progresses, certainly in the next book and particularly in the last installment. It's certainly an emotionally taxing series, especially on Malachi's end, and though my feelings for him fluctuated in the next novel, I was utterly besotted with him (again!) by the end of the series. I think as far as connecting to Lela goes, the motivations of the next two books change a lot so you won't experience the whole "lack of connection to Nadia = lack of connection to Lela" issue which I also felt in this installment. Lela becomes more defined solely by herself and without her connection to others and though I am really not a fan of the sequel, it is an important piece of the trilogy as a whole. I, personally, felt most connected to Lela probably in the last book, which I really, really like, and there were many positive aspects of FRACTURED as well where Lela really shines and comes through. My advice would be to read on but keep your expectations low for the sequel and turn off your love triangle detector because there is a pseudo-love triangle of sorts so...prepare yourself! But, I'm glad you enjoyed this and I hope you grow to love the rest of the series too! :)

  2. I.. have not heard of this book before, lol (A) But aw. I'm so sorry you waited ages to read this book, and then it wasn't perfect :( that is all kinds of depressing. Hmph. I wouldn't read book two, I think, if I didn't enjoy book one. So my advice is just to peek at it if you can (A) Anyway. Amazing review Lauren. <3 I hope the next book you read is much better :)

  3. I definitely think that you should continue with this series Lauren, the second book for me, was actually my favourite book out of the entire series! Yes there is a lot more pain and heartache for some of our favourite characters, but for me this is what made my connection with these characters that even more stronger. I'm sorry that you weren't able to enjoy this first book as much as you'd hoped, but I do hope that you deiced to give the rest of the series a go!

  4. Yes, continue with the series!!! The second book will make you crazy, but the third book makes it all worth it. And you definitely learn more about the Mazikin in the next two books. ~Pam

  5. Awww :( I am sad to hear you didn't like this one as much as you hoped to, Lauren. I am a huge fan of the series (who still needs to read the last book). I can see why the whole Nadia thing made it harder for you to connect to Lela. For me though, I felt the opposite. I loved her drive. I loved that she was willing to go so far for a friend. You usually girls in books losing their head over a guy they have fallen in love with but bonds of friendship aren't explored nearly as much as they could be, at least in my opinion. It's why I adored the book!

    I haven't read the third book so I cannot answer all your questions but I do think the mythology is bound to get stronger in book 3. In book 2, there is a lot of action and a lot of emotional drama. The drama did bring down the book for me but I feel like you should continue with the series because they are worth it!! And I am sure you'll be able to connect to Lela better in the future instalments since like Keertana said, the motivation does change. :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  6. I finished this series tonight, so we need to chat about it soon! I never had the same problem with Lela as you, so I'm not sure if that will change or not as you read the story, but I think she's such a loyal, brave girl, but she's not a total badass either. I love that she sometimes relies on Malachi and vise-versa. Book 1 is actually my favorite of the series, but the final book is good and the romance is back on track. Their relationship is so precious - I wish the author wouldn't have messed with it so much in book 2. :/

  7. I'm so sad that you didn't love it as much as you hoped! It sounds like you still really liked it, though. I've heard a lot about this book and series and, though I haven't read it yet, it is on my TBR list for future reading. Always a challenge when you can't quite connect to the MC.

  8. I'm so excited to start this series. I wonder if I will feel the same way about it? I'll be reading on my Kindle + audiobook.


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