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Book Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine

Sanctum: why people are better than algorithms any day….

Book Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine

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sanctum sarah fine book review

Title & Author: Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands, Book One) by Sarah Fine

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy – Paranormal

Release Date: October 16, 2012

Series: Guards of the Shadowlands #1

Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing

How I Got the Book: Bought


“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.


Not sure what to read one day, I looked to Amazon for some reccs. Although I absolutely would take a personal recommendation over any algorithm, Amazon has steered me well in the past. I clicked the “Your Recommendations feature “Your Account” and browsed.

What I ended up choosing was Sanctum. What sold me on this young adult paranormal read was the large number of 5-star reviews (581 out of 829). I was impressed!

However, I ended up feeling disappointed. The first part of Sanctum pulled me in. I thought Lela and Nadia’s friendship was interesting – I love reading about solid friendships and not frenemy backstabbing – and I was exploring the Suicide Gates world with Lela and finding it well-described and three-dimensional.

But, then came Malachi, a Suicide Gate guard who decides to help Lela find her best friend. I didn’t feel anything with this relationship. It followed the “we’re both wounded and hurt” trope to a tee. It was unoriginal and uninspired.

It’s strange because I liked Lela and Malachi as separate characters, but together…meh.

Then there’s the matter of the book’s content. I do not recommend this novel for any teenager struggling with anything remotely depressing. Although the book is obviously fiction, the Suicide Gates are a clear representation of purgatory. Although I’m a spiritual person, I can often overlook certain religion-y, otherworldly aspects of books that I disagree with.

I read books about witches and demons and angels all the time. To me, fiction is fiction. I can separate it in my mind.

With Sanctum, it seems too close to home in some ways. Suicide, rape (not described in detail, but definitely alluded to) and abuse are talked about in a way that I think it’s difficult to avoid relating to real life. That could absolutely just be me, but I felt so morbid and sad reading this novel.

I wanted more from this book. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great. It was ok.


This book suffered from an lackluster romance and a predictable ending (I wrote in my blog notes how I thought it would end and was 100 percent accurate). It’s also extremely dark in an excessive sort of way. Sanctum was just ok, and unfortunately I won’t be continuing the series.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.