Sanctum by Sarah Fine
Hardcover, 433 pages
Published: Oct. 16th, 2012 by Amazon Children's Publishing
“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 read a couple rave reviews of this book that put it on my radar so when a friend offered to loan it to me I took her up on the offer. For some reason I didn't remember the rave reviews so well anymore so I didn't go in with the highest expectations. I expected it to be good, but I didn't expect it to completely. blow. me. away! This book was so, so, so good!
I'm not going to do this review in the normal order as I want to comment on the romance first. This is not a book that focuses on the romance so much the plot and world building gets pushed aside, so remember that, the romance is perfect, but the plot and world is too. It's not real often that a romance really strikes a cord with me, that really makes me feel it all the way to my bones. A romance that reminds me that romance can be done well in YA, it's just not the easiest to find. This was a romance that made me giddy with happiness and not one iota of irritation (I know, right?!). If you are one who needs romance in your books, read this book!
The next thing I'm going to comment on is the phenomenal world building. This is not just another paranormal. No. This is unique and unlike anything I have read before. The majority of the book takes place behind the Suicide Gates. It's a place sort of in-between where those who commit suicide go. While most dwell in their misery and roam the city basically living what they think they want or need, this is their chance to redeem themselves and find their true worth and move to the place we would call Heaven. There is no religious tone to the book, at all. It doesn't mention God or anything. So please don't be concerned about that. Once I had a clear visual of this city and as it became fully fleshed out and real to me (as it was described incredibly well) I really saw how this place could be real. Now I have typed and retyped this next sentence over and over and I'm finding it difficult to really explain, so bear with me. Those that commit suicide are in a certain mind frame. So imagining them going into this city and walking these streets and 'living' the way they do actually made perfect sense. Now, I really think you need to read the book to understand that bit, but hopefully you get an idea of what I mean anyway. In this city is a guard and in that guard we find Malachi, the love interest. So here we are, back at the romance...
Malachi was not a bad boy, but he wasn't a good boy either. He has a reputation and he's very kick a$$. But Malachi does have a past and he's a bit tortured which makes him a more relatable to Lela who has a tortured past herself. Lela grew up in the foster care system and lived under the hand of abuse for many years. This has turned her into someone who is a bit afraid to trust but in the past year (before she died) her friend Nadia has helped her find her way and been a true friend. So when Nadia commits suicide and Lela sees (through visions) that she is in this city and in danger and in horrible pain (mentally) she knows she has to help her. Lela is a tough cookie, she can take on about anything and she's a real spitfire. I really loved her personality and how much she grew through the book. She was a character we could stand behind even though we don't necessarily believe in her mission, we can believe in her.
I feel like I should describe the plot a bit more, but I'm afraid of giving too much away. Basically Lela is trying to find Nadia to save her, but this is a huge city that is constantly changing. After being in danger, and nearly killed, she falls in with Malachi (there's so much more to that) and she learns more about the place and how it works through him and Ana, another guard. There's evil beings to overcome as well as other issues including Nadia's state of mind.
I really wish I was more eloquent, that I had the right words to describe this book, but I'm not. I'm really struggling to put to words the things this book made me feel and it did, it made me feel so much, and I needed that. I needed to feel the anger, the frustration, the beauty, the pain, the love. And oh, how I did! But the book, while so much of it is a dark subject, isn't dark. It has dark parts, but it was never depressing. It made me think, lots, but it was never heavy reading. And while I was terrified for the end, I was so pleased with it. There wasn't a cliffhanger but of course, I'm SO anxious for more!
This book is definitely going on my favorites of 2012 list! And while I have a hard time putting my thoughts into words, I suggest you check out Keertana's review at Ivy Book Bindings and Heidi's review at Rainy Day Ramblings. They both rated it high, but they did a fantastic job of describing things, much better than I did.
This is one book I want to shout from the rooftops to "read this book!" so I hope that you'll take me serious and go grab it. It's only $3.99 for Kindle ($9.29 for hardcover most places online).
Also, a short note here about the content. There's some violence and there's some cursing. I didn't think the content was too bad and would say maybe 8th grade and up would definitely be okay with the content (though every child is different) and I think the bit about suicide are something that could spur some good conversations.
*That link is an amazon affiliate link and if used I make a small portion of money which is used to fund contests on this blog.*