Review: Sanctum

Author: Sarah Fine
Date of Publication: October 16 2012
Pages: 433
Source: Library
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.


The word in my mind after reading Sanctum is lovely. I'm a little bit surprised by this because I don't often use the word 'lovely'. However, I think it describes the book well. Sanctum was a story of redemption and loss, with characters that I couldn't help but adore and an engrossing plot. When I picked Sanctum from the library, I was persuaded to read it after I looked over the promising synopsis and did a quick Goodreads check. Sanctum wasn't a book I heard a lot about, but it is very definitely a hidden gem.

One thing that I don't like, and I'll say this right off the top, is the cover. I've asked a lot of my friends to see if anyone disagrees, but the cover isn't attractive to me (or us). Some books call for me to read them because they're so pretty. Sanctum's cover is rather forgettable which saddens me because I think this book would appeal to a lot of people if they picked it up. Covers do matter at the end of the day.

The book itself was great. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect so I was a little taken back at the beginning. Let's just say the story doesn't waste time. The author knows her story and is very concise in getting to it. That's probably the biggest strength of Sanctum- the writing. I enjoyed it because it was fresh and natural. I never paid too much attention to it because I was so into the plot. At one point I even made a conscious decision not to pick up this book because it was exam week and I knew that if I started to read it, I would lose track of everything else.

The story begins with Lela recounting the first time she meets Nadia. I liked this approach by the author because, as their story was explained, I started to care about Nadia, at least a little, and so it made some sense why Lela would risk so much for her friend. I thought their relationship was very well done and I got a very good feel for it.

Nadia is troubled and the author dealt with this very well. Sanctum deals with some very dark issues fairly realistically. There is no major solution, and looking back I'm even more impressed. Pain is natural and some people can't get over it. They don't understand their true worth no matter how much you try to tell them. Suicide is a hard issue and this is a different approach to it. There are many familiar to this type of pain. Every character in Sanctum had to deal with something and they all dealt with it differently. Reading about their struggles to overcome the pain and attain redemption was inspiring.

When Lela arrives at the Suicide Gates, she encounters a horrible world that frankly, makes way too much sense. It's a dark place where you can get what you want, but not completely. Nothing is right like the food or even the TV. Nothing is entirely satisfactory.  Now we get into the paranormal aspect of the story. Lela discovers monstrous creatures that seem to fight with these guys in armor. She soon meets Malachi and boy is he an awesome character.

Sometimes you meet a character and you know this character is going to be awesome. Malachi is a great example of that. He has history; mannerisms. He's so sweet and strategic. He's sensitive too and I respected him. He has real chemistry with Lela and I was totally feeling the romance.

Lela is feisty. She won't back down from anybody and she's courageous. She's dealt with a lot of crap and she's still recovering. Nadia meant so much to her and Lela can't accept failing her friend. She's so loyal and I respected that. The cast in general was fantastic.

The plot has a very simple premise of Lela saving Nadia. This is surprisingly complex in reality. I liked the plot a lot and I thought the ending was awesome. It wrapped up the story while remaining open and giving the reader some hope.

In general, everything in Sanctum feels well done and complete. A completely solid all around book that deserves way more hype than it gets. Sanctum deals with complex issues featuring detailed characters and an entertaining plot. The relationships in this book are top notch, especially the romance. There is development and these little awkward moments. But just because it's not perfect doesn't make it not beautiful. 4 hearts,

- P.E.


  1. We had heard some quiet buzz -- more like a hum? haha -- about this book, but yours is the first real and full review we've seen of it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Sounds like it might be up our alley.

    1. I hope you guys enjoy it. I think "hum" is a good way to describe its' hype- I know I was away for a while but I truly heard nothing at all about it.


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