A week ago, 17-year-old Lela Santos’ 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.
©2012 Sarah Fine (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
I started reading this book before knowing anything about it so I was surprised when the story went from her regular school life to falling off a cliff and dying very early on in the story.
I generally like books/movies with strong female characters so this had promise. The main character Lela started out as physically and emotionally strong in the beginning, became wimpy, foolish and lovestruck towards the middle and deteriorated into a weak Disney princess at the end. She was so self-absorbed thinking everything was about her and constantly apologizing. Get over yourself - the world does not revolve around you. Her character started out as a 10 and ended up as a 2.
The supporting character who commits suicide, Nadia starts out interesting but ends up like a boring zombie. I had no interest whether she stayed in purgatory forever or not.
I would have liked the characters to be less cookie-cutter and more internally conflicted. The good guys are all good, the bad guys are all bad - there is nothing complex about them. The most interesting characters have a bit of both (think Breaking Bad).
Aside from the teenage melodrama and angst, the concept of the underworld was very interesting and the description of the houses, the people and how things worked were fascinating. The story line was exciting and moved quickly.
I was a little confused at the end of the book - like why the characters ended up where they did with that particular job. I like stories being wrapped up so that was good but I definitely had a moment of "Wait. What?" It seems like the finale was crow-barred.
I thought this book was well-written and well-paced. The world of the different afterlives is very interesting and unusual. The version of "angels" and "Judge" is a great twist on what I expected to find. The idea that these two girls had such a strong friendship that one would follow the other into Hell to save her friend after she has committed suicide is fascinating and intriguing. The lead character's background of sexual assault and neglect making her unable to even hug her friends is touching and creates some good tension as she attempts to learn to trust other people.
Unfortunately the book begins to devolve into sexist and cliched territory. Our luxuriously-haired teenage heroine doesn't have enough self-esteem to value her own life and doesn't think she is attractive or worthy of love. She meets The One, falls in love immediately and deeply, as does he - and he is able to break through her barriers in a very extremely short period of time. He saves her physically from monsters and thus she trusts him as no one else... and soon they are kissing and she is attracted to him sexually (despite her previous extreme fear of intimacy). They stop communicating their feelings and thus question each other's love and loyalty repeatedly, creating dangers that seemed easily avoidable. She rushes into danger all alone and has to be rescued. Her friend becomes an afterthought and is relegated to an abruptly easy afterlife and is conveniently pushed out of the story.
The plot never really lives up to the promise of the unique setting and world-building. The romance is too perfect, too quick, and too intense, as is typical of YA paranormal romances. That said, the writing is smooth and well-edited. The author's talent kept me reading while hoping desperately that the plot lines took more advantage of the action plots rather than the romance.
Audiobook version note: the narrator's mangled accent for Malachi make me wince. He sounds like a bad fake Russian Dracula.
Goodreads reviewer and blogger... also dentist and wife/mom when I get the time!
I'm going to go against the grain here and give this book 3 stars. In this case, 3 stars means that I loved some parts, didn't like other parts, but I liked the book overall. It wasn't that the book was bland or middling, but that I had some issues with it.
I'll start off with what I liked. 5 stars for sure for world-building here. Sarah Fine created a uniquely imaginative world that happened to make total sense. It was creepy, dark, and fabulously conceptualized. Her concept of the afterlife for suicide victims, the Shadowlands, was perfect. By far, the world was my favorite part of the book. I loved the concept of the Mazikin. Just brilliant, honestly. This book had some of the best world-building that I've ever seen in young adult paranormal.
Now for the parts that I had issues with. I've said it once and I'll say it again, audiobooks change the entire reading experience. So much is riding on the narrator and their interpretation of the characters. I loved when this narrator voiced Lela. She did a very nice job conveying Lela's emotions and fears. However, once the narrator attempted to narrate for Malachi, I was not a fan. First of all, Malachi sounded distinctly feminine, which really lessened his appeal greatly. He is supposed to be a very strong, macho Middle-Eastern man and the narrator sort of made it sound like a white girl doing a mock Arab accent (not cool). The narrator also sounded almost identical with her Middle Eastern accent for Malachi and her Hispanic accent for Anna. It was distracting for me and lead me to focus on the flaws of the characters.
I didn't love how Malachi and Lela were too perfect. They were both self-sacrificing to the point of incredulity. My least favorite character was Nadia, mostly because I just couldn't see why Lela would go to so much trouble for a girl who made no impact on me. I get why Lela was supposed to care about Nadia, I just didn't care about her and I wanted to shake Lela for giving up so much for her. I wanted to shout, "Nadia isn't worth it!"
Despite my issues, I think I will certainly move on to the next in the series. The world has too much potential for me to quit now. Perhaps in ebook form I'll like the story even more.
I loved this book! It was so thorough and well written and it makes you beg for more!
The narrator was very good.
How she never gave up no matter what she faced.
The part where they went through the building. Without giving it away it scared me.
It did make me feel a lot of emotions.
I cannot wait for more from this author.
"Welcome to Suicide City..."
There’s a lot to like about Sanctum, not least of all the complex characters whose motivations we get to examine based on their passed experiences and how they cope with stress, abuse and the temptation of an 'easy' out. As main characters Lela and Malachi were so easy to relate to, and their chemistry simmers through the pages. This is also the first time I’ve read about a Latina heroine, not that her ethnicity makes a huge difference on plot and character within the story, but it made a change.I wasn’t a big fan of Nadia, as I couldn’t connect with her, but I did manage to feel compassion for her.
Sarah Fine does a wonderful job of explaining how severe depression can blind people like Nadia from the good things in their lives, so yes, I would definitely recommend this book to friends and actually have done so. One friend says she'd give it full stars, but the other wasn't as enamoured and said it was an ok read and would give it a three, personally I think my judgement's best ;)
In my opinion, the author’s background in psychology makes for some thought-provoking moments as the story progresses. Especially interesting is the conclusion to Lela’s quest to save Nadia, it’s a strong message to carry to anyone who has ever convinced themselves they are solely responsible for other peoples’ feelings and actions.
I loved the fast pace that took me by the hand and rushed me around the hellish suicide gate and into a city of desolate souls who are preyed upon by monsters. The story is dark, gritty and compelling. I did have to push aside my scepticism about Lela’s physical strength and fighting abilities against some of her stronger opponents, to enjoy the scraps that she manages to get inot and out of in the city, but once I suspended my disbelief I couldn't stop listening.
Amy McFadden’s done a great job on the narration and I enjoyed the various voices she used, but it was actually as the monsters I thought she excelled. There was just a wonderful creepy tone to the characters, which brought the whole setting to life.
It took a little over a day for me to listen to the whole story, because once I'd started I found myself pressing play at any spare moment I found.
The ending was a cliffhanger for the sequel, but just before that we get a very satisfying conclusion to the main part of the plot. So I'd suggest this book can even be read as a standalone. The sequel will pick up on a new story/mission that began at the end of Sanctum, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for that next instalment.
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