Author: Sarah Fine
Book #: 1st of Trilogy
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's/Amazon Children's Publishing
Publish Date: October 16th 2012
Date Read: September 19th 2013
Rating: ★★★★ / out of 5
What if I could find her? What if I could bring her into the sunlight? What if I could do in death what I hadn't done in life?
What if I could save her?
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.
(Synopsis taken from Goodreads)
I'm really hesitant to read two types of books: ones that have too much hype and ones that have too little. This book didn't really have much hype, or at least I haven't seen much. I've only seen one or two friends read it, and haven't seen anyone else talking about it. For a while, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to get around to it. Then, I was accepted for the sequel on Net-galley and that really pushed me into finally reading Sanctum.
As we begin, we are introduced to a very unique protagonist, Lela, as she is starting her new life with a new foster parent. It is obvious from the start that, while she has been taken advantage of in the past, she is not a "damsel in distress" kind of girl. She is very hardcore, troubled and doesn't take anyone's shit. Because of her experience, she was also able to give some really straight-forward and "reality check" advice:
"Trust me," I said to Nadia as I turned off the water. "There's no better, happy place to go to. Running away from it doesn't fix anything. Turning yourself into a zombie doesn't either. Deal with your shit here, Nadia. And do it sober."
As hard it was to really relate to her, though, because of what she's been through, I really admired her. There were times when it became even harder to relate to her at all (view spoiler) but, in the end, I can't deny the fact that she is pretty kick-ass.
However, as the story progressed- and the love interest is introduced- I saw her personality started to change. She just can't stop thinking about Malachi and she becomes very love sick and angsty, in my opinion. During one of their few, first encounters, she says this which evoked some eye-rolls from me: *cues super dramatic voice*
As soon as I touched him, I knew it was a mistakeI started to disagree with more of her choices, ones that she made because of Malachi and her interest in him. I also began to hate how dependent on him some of her situations were. At the end of the day, though, she still was determined to find Nadia. Now that all of the beginning relationship matters are settled, I'm hoping that her focus will shift back to the new problem at hand.
Malachi himself was a pretty complex character. I have to admit, though, that I was not a fan of his answer-questions-with-questions technique. I never am. But he has a very troubled past, too, that you learn more about and I thought he was a very well developed character.
I think the rest characters were okay, but there were none that really left an impression on me.
What I loved most about this book was the story. This author creates a very unique concept of the afterlife, being split up in different versions of Hell depending on your sins. Not only that, but the selfish wants and humanly desires of the people condemned to these versions of hell are available to them... at a price.
"You see, if someone in the city wants a house, it grows. If they want a pagoda or a hut or a tower, it grows. All they have to do is want. Wish. Desire. Then the buildings take on a life of their own, fed by the wanting. But what comes of that wanting is never good. Or satisfying. Just... big. So the city grows, and the misery within it grows. Like a disease."I thought this whole idea was very well thought out, built, and explored and I cannot wait to see what more we learns about this world in the sequel.
Overall, I was satisfied with this book. Lela is still a very like-able heroine and I think many people will enjoy reading about her. Mostly, I liked the story's concept, and I felt like that made up for the majority of my concerns.
The city planners in hell either had very bad taste or a strange sense of humor.
"Sit down, Lela. Let's work on you. What happened to your hair?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh. It's always that crazy? We need to get it under control before we go. It's just asking to be grabbed."
I eyed her spill of ebony hair. "And yours isn't?"
Ana smiled. "Maybe. But for those who try lose limbs"
In that instant I decided I liked Ana.
With every lift of my foot, I chanted, I am strong enough.
With every breath, I repeated, This is not real.
On My Goodreads: