Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sanctum, Sarah Fine (Guards of the shadowlands #1)

sanctum sarah fineTitle: Sanctum
Author: Sarah Fine (author website | blog)
Release Date:  Oct. 16th 2012 by Marshall Cavendish Children's/Amazon Children's Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 starhalf star

In Sanctum, Sarah Fine's d├ębut offering, nightmares walk the streets of a hellish city, normal girls can be fierce warriors, and tortured boys so much more. The world of Sanctum is terrifying and fascinating, the characters’ pain palpable, and the romance? Phwoar.

From Goodreads:

"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.

"Would you risk your afterlife to save your best friend’s soul?" I’m not sure I would if the friend was Nadia, but Lela would. Especially since she owes Nadia her life. Nadia helped Lela recover from the darkest point of her life; overcome a history of neglect, abuse and depression... Only to succumb to darkness herself.

When the seemingly perfect, sunny Nadia takes her own life, Lela is shattered, unable to comfort herself with thoughts of Nadia being in a better place, afterall, she knows better. She’s haunted by dreams of a shell-shocked Nadia wandering the streets of a place Lela knows all too well--the place all suicides go on their death. A place worse than the life they fled from. Lela will do anything to save Nadia from her fate, even risk death, itself.

But Sanctum is not Nadia’s story. It is Lela’s. And while it is a story of love, and a kind of selfless friendship that crosses worlds, it’s a little something more.

Sarah Fine approaches her story from a unique background — she’s a psychologist. Sanctum deals with suicide, and it’s done well, Fine capturing conflicting feelings of guilt, despair, anger and betrayal from its ‘left behind’ protagonist, but what sat uncomfortably true was its departed Nadia’s hopelessness and pain.

It’s a dark book, dealing with dark matters, but, for the most part, it doesn’t feel like a book about suicide. It reads as Urban Fantasy, with all the dark, gritty hallmarks of the genre. What Sanctum does well is the creepy, the visceral, the haunting. Tortured souls wonder the streets of Suicide City, grasping at ‘things’ to fill their empty spaces; monsters hide within the shadows, and without. Nightmares grow and grasp like living creatures, and in one particularly disquieting scene, a building which feeds people their own fears in order to consume them left me with chills.

Sanctum’s heroine, Lela is tough, brave and damaged. At times she felt forced, and with her voice to guide me, it took me some time to fall into the story’s flow. But, once she held me her grasp, she did not let go. When she’s not posturing and telling the reader she’s tough and people don’t mess with her because she done time on the inside, yo, I liked her immensely. It’s the fragile, aching inside of her, not the tough girl exterior, I grew to love. She’s capable of great selflessness—as indicated by her willing trip to hell to save her friend’s soul—but there are times when her selflessness puts others on the line, teetering dangerously close to its antonym. There’s an interesting theme of choice here, or perhaps, if not choice, the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. The lines between both in Sanctum are vague, as they can be in real life.

Of course, at the core of Sanctum is a romance, intense and sexy as could be wished for. Lela falls for Malachi, King of the Underworld. Okay, okay, he’s not at all King or ruler. He’s a guard, a protector, with some very dark secrets. The two share an instant attraction and fascination with one another, and it develops, while alarmingly fast at first, into something far deeper. To put it succinctly, when I finished the book, my thoughts on the romance could be distilled into one word: phwoar. It’s totally a word, right?

That romance aside, Malachi himself was, for me, the story’s greatest draw, and as his long history unfolds in Sanctum’s final pages, I found it hard to look away.

The Verdict

So there you have it. Sanctum. Combine scorching chemistry and a creepy, living world, built of old and new. Add swords, knives, a kickass heroine and dashing, tortured hero. Then take another girl—a broken one; a friendship and loyalty powerful enough to reach across worlds, and you’ll have Sanctum. To quote another, far more eloquent, reviewer, Sanctum is “an amazing story of loss and redemption and courage and grief, but I know you’re all skimming this paragraph to hear about the boy, right?” Well, the wait was worth it, and I’m sure you, ‘dear reader’, will find it so, too.

Want it? Get it:

Amazon / Kindle Booktopia (AU) | Book DepositoryBookworld/Borders (AU)  Dymocks (AU)


  1. It's an intriguing question about risking your afterlife for someone else's soul-I know I'd do that for my sister (I'd do almost anything for her) and I'm interested to see Lela doing that for Nadia.

  2. Phwoar is my new favourite word.

    This book sounds so CREEPY but I also can't help but be intrigued. Haunting concept, written by a psychologist, a DASHING, TORTURED hero? I may have to push past the more chilling scenes just to get to the rest of it.

    And I totally laughed at the 'yo' usage. Sarah, you're such a GANGSTA, damn ;)

  3. 'Phwoar' is totally a word. :D

    This sounds really good, I love that it's such a gritty read. I'm glad you really enjoyed it despite the rocky start. Lovely review, Sarah! :)

  4. Is it sad that the selling point to me was the boy??

    Adding to my TBR...

  5. I finished this one not long ago and my impression of Nadia was lukewarm. There was a lot of telling about how great she was but every portrayal of her was weak. I'm probably going to be in the minority again with my feelings about this book but for me it started off really strong and turned into a mushy romance that I hadn't expected. I'm so glad someone else I know has read it too.

  6. Wonderful review, Sarah! I'm so glad you wound up enjoying it by the end and really, Malachi was amazing. I do think it took awhile for me to get accustomed to Nadia's voice too, but once I did, I just LOVED this. I cannot wait for the sequel!(:

  7. RIGHT?
    Hmm... I should look it up. Does Urban Dictionary count?

  8. AAAHHHH! This sounds right up my alley. I love dark Urban Fantasy type books. And the romance is a nice bonus. I just heard of this book recently and have seen rave reviews so far. I am so in.

  9. Oooh, I'd be so curious to see what you make of it, Jenn! It's definitely not a romance-heavy book, but there is one scene at the end which was HOT. And and and *grins*

  10. *nods*
    Agreed, I know I'd do anything for my husband, and... yeah. KIND OF INTENSE.

    I think it was interesting, because... ultimately, I'm not sure Nadia was a particularly prominant character in the book, or will show up again in the future -- it's more about what she means to Lela, and how that causes her to act. I kind of wish I'd seen more of the friendship, but... a lot of it's implied. She's gotta be one hell of a gal to... well, go where she went for her O__O

    There were parts it seemed so... normal, and others I was like *whimpers* DON'T GO IN THERE, LELA! DON'T DO IT O__O


  12. Ahaha! THANK YOU.

    I was so glad I stuck with it, Aa'Ishah -- totally worth the time. It wound up being rather brilliant :)

  13. AHAHA! No. It's not. You're just more honest about it than everyone else. I really liked the boy (more than I liked Lela, in fact ;D)


    I really didn't feel Nadia... or feel much for her. I liked how Sarah handled Lela's grief, and I really did like the confrontation towards the end of the book where they both get to discuss their feelings. Whether I liked Nadia or not, how she described feeling empty, fake, a shell? I got that. And I liked Lela's... anger, hurt, blame, and... I thought that was handled well. I was dissapointed we never really got to see anything substantial to show Nadia was anything more what she felt she was when she killed herself, which is sad. We were told a lot. I think the lengths Lela went to in order to save her speak volumes, but... I still wanted to see it.

    I can't admit to disliking the romance. I'm a romance fan. BUT.
    I... mmm. It seemed like a different book to how it was presented? I HAVE LOTS OF THOUGHTS, LAN! :D

    I don't think it was a perfect book. I had a LOT of problems with it, but it wound up coming good, for me. It's kind of funny we liked the opposite halves, though :D

  15. Eeee, thank you Keertana! Malachi was SO amazing, and YES. Once I got into the swing of Lela's voice, I was hooked. I loved the romance, too ♥

  16. SARAH'S A PSYCHOLOGIST?!?! WHOAAAAA! That is freaking AWESOME. I'm reading this FOR SURE, NOW! heheee I love this intense and sexy romance you speak of...I WANT TO MEET MALACHI! (Why does Malachi sound so familiar?!?! I can't place his name..I've definitely heard it before!)

    Glad you enjoyed this Sarahhhh<3 I can't wait to dive into it :)

  17. Saraaah! This sounds awesome! This is the first time I've heard of Sanctum, and I believe I need me a copy pronto! It sounds so creepy and dark, but that chemistry... I needs it! Thanks for the awesome review, Sarah1

  18. Scorching chemistry is right! Malachi and Lela together are something else. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, dearling--it was a nice surprise to me, too.

  19. I caved and bought this when I saw about a billion 5 star reviews and it really does sound quite good, Sarah, and different from my usual reads!

  20. Phwoar is most certainly a word. See? I just used it. ;)

    I'm so glad you liked this, Sarah! I really enjoyed it too, and agree with your points. It doesn't feel like a suicide book at all, does it? I'm glad that it had that urban fantasy edge. And... Malachi! Sigh. I just can't. :)

    Great review!

  21. I actually liked that Nadia didn't seem like much from our point of view. It made the sacrifice even more significant somehow, because it was focused on what she meant to Lela.
    All in all, I really loved this book. I think it's a breat of fresh (though admittedly dark) air and I can't wait to read more.
    Great review.

  22. Assuming "phwoar" is a good thing, I totally agree with you!! LOL!

    Awesome review! I love hearing when people love this book because I loved it too! Malachi is like... *fans self* Pretty freaking amazing. And hot. And perfect. And mine.

  23. Wow. I haven't heard of this one, but Malachi is a big draw for me too.
    Also, I think that L would be a character that I would like to read about.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  24. HAHA I love the first line in this review! I've seen this cover before but never really looked into. It sounds INTRIGUING though and it's interesting that Sarah is a psychologist. The romance sounds steamy, phwoar indeed.

  25. Ok so an UF dealing in suicide. Never would have thought that from the cover. Wonderful review. Makes me want to read it , but at same time I find suicide books tough to read, hence Hannah Harrington Saving June, but I will read it!



  26. Is this the one you were telling me about at climbing and comparing to that movie where he brings his wife's soul back or were you comparing it to the thing you're working on? I can picture what wall I was set to climb, but I can't remember the books. :)

    It sounds awesomely interesting, though I was almost CRUSHED because I thought you were going to say you wouldn't rescue your BFFs soul from hell. CRUSHED, Sarah, CRUSHED!

  27. Finished it last night... Really, really enjoyed it! So glad you reviewed this!!

  28. I've seen this cover a few times on Goodreads, but I never gave it much attention. After reading your review, I feel like I need to pick it up! Lela sounds like a nice character. I have something with tough, damaged personalities in books.


  29. oh, your review for this just feels about exactly how i felt about it when i read it (man, that sentence is weird)

    i dont even know why i read this book. not my thing. at all. and yet, it was oddly compelling and kind of awesome. still, it's all fading away now. like, it felt like a kind of dream, haha.

    am i even making sense? x

  30. I read this, and enjoyed it a lot, but I wish I had felt more between Lela and Nadia. Don't get me wrong, I thought Lela was awesome for going to find Nadia, but there were several moments when I was like, "NADIA DOESN'T DESERVE YOU." I feel like we weren't given a true glimpse of how deep their friendship ran; we were only told about it.

    Again, though, I did love this a lot and Lela's journey was incredible. Also, MALACHI. That last scene had me grinning like a fool.


    Honestly, this is EXACTLY how I felt about the book. And that's what I thought about the strapline: “Would you risk your afterlife to save your best friend’s soul?” Grumpy cat: no.

    I think... we had to accept too much without seeing it, that Nadia was a decent friend? Mmm.

    " I feel like we weren’t given a true glimpse of how deep their friendship ran; we were only told about it."



  32. Noooomes, you are SO making sense. THIS: "i dont even know why i read this book. not my thing. at all. and yet, it was oddly compelling and kind of awesome. still, it’s all fading away now. like, it felt like a kind of dream, haha."

    YES. I know PRECISELY what you mean ♥

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