For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands #1) by Sarah Fine


13482750A 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.

Goodreads

Review:

I’ve had this book on my shelf for years and I thought it would be fun to binge on a trilogy that‘s already complete. Not to mention clearing off my shelf of older books.

Sanctum gets off to a fantastic start. I loved Nadia. She’s a world weary girl toughened by her time in the foster care system. Nadia helps one of the popular girls in school one day and they become unlikely bff’s until death separates them.

I loved everything about Lela and Nadia’s friendship, the cool afterworld setting, dividing the dead between the Suicide Gates and the Countryside. There are evil creatures called the Mazakin that inhabit the zombie like lost souls who have committed suicide and await judgment and guards that try to protect them and eliminate the Mazakin. 

There seems to be more going on – maybe angels? God & the Devil? I don’t know for sure. This was more of a set up to the world and characters and I assume it’s all fleshed out in the next two books. Either way – it was a fun start with a YA/Urban Fantasy feel.

However, there were a few things that just took all the joy out of reading this one and I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the series.

~ Lela suffered sexual abuse in the foster care system. I thought this was initially handled SO well but once she goes to the Suicide Gates it seems she is constantly in situations of potential sexual violence or leering thoughts aimed at her. I kind of hate that once a victim – a girl becomes a beacon for that type of attention. Almost every male thinks of her sexually. I do think some of it was necessary for Lela’s character arc (and accurate to the situation around her) – she has to overcome her fears but it made me sick to my stomach after a while to read. It's always aimed at just her.

~ Lela's romance with Malachi was of the insta variety. She’s *special*. Why? No idea. But she’s tougher – stronger – smarter than any other girl apparently even though there’s not much evidence of that. Sure she’s street smart, she’s scrappy, she’s quick to get back on her feet but special above all others? Didn’t see it. But Malachi does…and once he does decades or training and smart thinking fly out the window. Malachi is a nice hero – but generic. This super bad ass guard that strikes fear in Hell all of a sudden can’t do anything right because he’s in love. *sigh*

And once Lela notices Malachi’s abs – well forget it…we never hear the end of it.

They do have a sweet relationship though and it's nice to see a thoughtful hero who isn't all alpha for once. Especially in YA. He respects Lela and her need to go at her own pace.

~ I first started reading YA with Twilight and for some reason any issue of Edward being 100 years old vs Bella being a teen never even occurred to me. In this book Malachi was a Jewish boy rounded up with his family during the holocaust. He’s been a guard for the Suicide Gates for over 70 years. The idea of him falling instantly for a teenage girl just didn’t ring true.

Those things annoyed me but weren't that big of a deal in grand scheme of things because the writing is good - it just felt like - been there done that if you know what I mean.

~ But my biggest annoyance and reason why I won’t continue is Lela going into situations that get people hurt/killed, despite warnings. Over and over again. Now I’m not saying she has to be a perfect kick-ass heroine. At first she was an awesome balance of strong yet vulnerable but after one really big screw up – she berates herself for being so dumb and thoughtless. Then does it again. And again. And again. You get the idea.

Final thoughts: I really loved Fine’s take on the afterlife, suicide, friendship and initially how she handled sexual abuse and the after effects. The action is fast and furious, and at times, gruesome. This is also a book with a lot of diversity in its characters. But it started to fall into clichĂ© YA with the ageless hot boy romance/insta-love, the girl who is special above all other girls for no reason, a really stubborn heroine that keeps screwing up – apologizing - and then goes off half baked AGAIN.

If I had read this years ago when it first came out I think I would have liked it more. I'm just kind of tired of that set up I guess.

Several reviewers compared Sanctum to The Vampire Academy series so if that’s something that appeals to you – you might want to give it a try. The urban fantasy elements and world building were really well done.

34 comments:

  1. Some of those things you mention, oh, would so annoy me

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    1. Most of the things that bothered me weren't enough to stop me from enjoying the book - until the constant going off on her own then spending pages feeling awful about it only to do it again. That frustrates me so much.

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  2. Quote:
    "And once Lela notices Malachi’s abs – well forget it…we never hear the end of it."
    LOL.

    What a pity. I'm always on the lookout for a good afterlife book (surprise, surprise!). But instalove and all the stuff, no-no. Also, what you said about the sexual abuse angle becoming, umm, a whole room? It's a bummer, really, because some books seems to have so much potential in the beginning, or a really cool/fresh idea at their core, and then fall into the trap of the been there, read that. Writers need to take some risks. On the other hand, I understand some presses won't let them. You remember "The Bad Rescue of Devon Streeter" by B.C. Johnson, that I recently reviewed - he decided to go self-pub with that one because no press would take the risk. And it's an excellent book, sure to appeal to fans of many genres...

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    1. You might like it Roberta. There's a lot of good things in this book - especially the afterlife part.

      I know several authors that have been accused of copying a trend or whatever but also know that they had the idea years before. It just takes a long time for a book to go from idea to published so it appears as if they are just cashing in when that's not the case.

      Also publishers tend to publish more of what's popular. After Twilight it was all paranormal love triangles, then dystopia after The Hunger Games.

      They don't seem to understand that the reason a certain book takes off is because it's different.

      I think this book falls under - I read all the others first so this didn't seem as original to me as it would have years ago. But more in the romance department than the world building.

      I'm going to check out what else the author has written because there was a lot to like about her writing style.

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  3. So I almost picked up a book by her and now I think I will go back and do that. This sounds like a fit for me :)

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    1. I guess this just wasn't the story for me. I definitely would give the author another try though because I did like her writing.

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  4. well yes I totally cosign with this review and I think the same things would annoy me too. Mash up of things don't always work . Thanks for taking one for the team.

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    1. The first half was really good and I did enjoy her take on the afterlife. The romance and stubborn heroine became too much for me in the end though.

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  5. Hmmm...I'm not quite sure what to make of this one. Doesn't really sound like one I would enjoy all that much either...

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    1. There's a lot to like about it Melissa. like I said if I hadn't read so many similar characters/romance before, I think it would have been a better fit.

      It was SO good to start that I was bummed that it went the cliche route.

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  6. Sorry you didn't like this, it was a harder read with all the depression and the dark world she created. I hope you decide to try something else of her's because she really is a wonderful writer.

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    1. I loved how dark it was! I was just irritated with Lela by the end.

      I will give her another try though.

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  7. That sucks. And here I was, ready to one-clicl this. Maybe the abs distracted her too.much & messed up with her decision making skills

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    1. I get really hung up on cliches so it might not bother you as much. I would say give it a try just for her cool world building. it has a very UF feel.

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  8. Sorry you didn't really love this one and aren't interested in continuing the series. My library finally has all three books, so I do want to give it a try but it's always good to go in with "eyes wide open" if you will.

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    1. It's action packed and inventive so if you haven't read the "special girl" premise over and over it probably won't be as big a deal as it was to me.

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  9. I'm sorry this one did not work out so well for you. The gritty world and lore sound interesting and I usually have a good tolerance for insta love, but I'm not sure about Lela. I just download Marked by Sarah Fine and think I'll give that series a go first. Thanks for doing such a fabulous job listing your pros and cons as that seriously helps me.
    Great review, Karen :)

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    1. The insta love didn't even bother me at first until later when we get more background on the hero and he turns all stupid because he's in love. It didn't make sense to me why he fell so hard. Even so - they had a sweet romance. he's a good guy.

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  10. Oh, that sucks. I loved this book. But I understand how there are some things that don't click with everybody. Thanks for the honest review :)

    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms.

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    1. I LOVED the beginning then it went downhill for me. Oh well lol

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  11. Really terrific review. At first I was right there with you, wanting to read this, but the issues that you pointed out with so much thought and thoroughness really diminished that desire.

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    1. I've read so many books like this though that it might just be a case of reader burn out rather than not a great book.

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    1. A lot of readers (that I respect) compared it to VA on Goodreads so give it a try!

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  13. Oh yea... I would have the same problems as you did. I'm tired of those tropes as well. I may keep it on my wishlist and try it at a later time when I'm not so inundated with the same thing. I might actually like it then. :)

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    1. Sometimes it's bad to have read so many books. I'm sure that if I read this years ago I would have felt differently.

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  14. This one does sound interesting but the cliche aspect makes me question it.. Love the honest review x Benish| Feminist Reflections

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  15. I have a blogger friend who loves these but not sure they are for me.
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. I might try something else by her because her world building and writing were great.

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  16. I loved Vampire Academy, but this doesn't sound like a book I'd enjoy. Leila sounds like too reckless of a character for me. Thanks for the honest review, Karen!

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    1. Reckless is a good word for her. Impulsive…Which is fine as long as you learn from your mistakes. She doesn't which was my breaking point. You can't whine about how you made a mistake and then purposely make another one.

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  17. You know, I got this as an audiobook and I just couldn't seem to give a damn. I told myself I'd read the ebook (it was one of those amazon deals where you get both for like $6), but I haven't. It's sad that Leila's sexual abuse history keeps haunting her, and it bugged me that she used her sex appeal to get ahead in life (well, the afterlife). I do agree that there was a degree of instalove. I wanted to like Malachi, he seemed like such a bad ass, but I just couldn't seem to care.

    The comparison between this and Vampire Academy is interesting because I only got 30% in VA until I DNF'd it.

    Thanks for finishing this one up though! I'm probably not going to get to it.

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    1. That's interesting. I liked that the abuse haunted her. It felt realistic to me. I didn't feel like she used her sexuality - but I thought everyone looked at her sexually - if that makes any sense. That's the part that bugged me. All the men (except Malichi) wanted to rape her.

      He was nice enough but kind of bland.

      I only read the first VA book and quit so I'm not sure how the comparison holds but so many people mentioned it on Goodreads I thought it might help guide the book to the right people.

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  18. Well, once you've spotted the abs, really what else is there to talk about? Mmm...not thinking this is a story for me, as I can see having the same issues as you.

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