Author: Sarah Fine
Narrator: Amy McFadden
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands, book #1
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible
$3.99 for Kindle as of this post
Where the hell was I when this book was released last year? Seriously. The only reason it was even on my radar was because of a blog tour wherein I believe parts of Malachi's journal were revealed. [I still need to check those out, so don't spoil anything for me. ;)] And apparently, Amazon Children's Publishing is touting this as their next big thing for fans of Susan Ee's Angelfall. As a HUGE fan of that book, I can tell you that Sanctum was just as good as Angelfall.
While Angelfall entertains the idea of deviant angels on earth, Sanctum takes the story to the afterlife. I know, I know...angels and the afterlife are soooo overdone in YA. But it's the author's spin that makes these books really stand apart from all of those others. With Sanctum, there's no going through the stages of grief after death, no wishing to be alive again. This book is simply about Lela's mission to save her suicidal best friend from a hellish future in the afterlife, one that she's only dreamt about but that her friend is truly living.
Lela hasn't had an easy life. And until she sticks her neck out for someone she doesn't even know, she hadn't realized it could actually get better. Once Nadia befriends Lela, everything changes. Suddenly, Lela has a future. But just when things are going great, Nadia leaves Lela to deal with everything on her own. Lela didn't set out to follow Nadia into the afterlife, but now that she's there, and because she knows what awaits Nadia thanks to the nightmares that have plagued her over the years, she is willing to do anything to save her best friend. I think it speaks so much to Lela's character and to how much she's progressed that she cares so deeply for this girl that she's only known for a year.
The afterlife doesn't have to be the muted, dreary existence that awaits Nadia behind the Suicide Gates. But as the name implies, that is the afterlife that one can expect when they take their own life. The cover of this book might have turned me off previously because of its bleakness, but now, having read the book, I think it's a very appropriate and entirely suitable cover. The setting of this story is so dismal and gray, but based on the descriptions provided by Lela in the book, the city depicted on the cover is exactly like I imagined. And knowing how it got that way makes it all the more intriguing because this is a place where you can have anything you want but it will never be enough.
While searching this dark city for Nadia so that she can break her out, Lela has a run-in with one of the guards. I don't know any better way to describe their relationship than this: Malachi is to Lela what Dimitri was to Rose in the Vampire Academy series...sexy accent included. Lela is already strong and capable, but Malachi makes her better. In Malachi, Lela finds the sanctuary and solace that she has desperately needed all her life. But Lela means just as much to Malachi...after learning his story and how he ended up at the Suicide Gates, I think he might need Lela even more than she needs him.
Malachi agrees to help Lela find Nadia and get them out of the city, but there are risks involved. There are these creatures (souls?) called Mazakin that want to be set free, and they are invading the Shadowlands. I like what this storyline added to the book: the danger, the race to stop them, the uneasy feeling that it might already be too late. I feel like maybe there's a reason why Lela followed Nadia so quickly in death, that the powers that be have a purpose for Lela, and maybe it has something to do with stopping the Mazakin. I usually am not a fan of taking free will away from a character, but in this case, it works.
Know what else is working for this story? The audiobook narrator. Amy McFadden is perrrrrfect! All of the accents, the emotion she expresses...I liken her skills to that of Khristine Hvam, who provided the narration for a couple of the Vampire Academy books (coincidence?) and Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bones series. This audiobook was so unbelievably good; it's the kind that you could listen to over and over again. Or maybe I'm just jonesing for another Malachi fix.
I could go on and on about this book, and still not fully convey how much I loved it. It's equal parts dark and disturbing, but there's an underlying current of hopefulness throughout. The tender moments far outweigh the battles scenes as far as favorites go for me because the chemistry between Malachi and Lela is undeniable, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate how badass these characters are. I'm so very glad I found this sleeper hit when I did...before it exploded on the YA market like Angelfall did. And although I hope the book follows in those same footsteps and exceeds everyone's expectations, one place I hope it doesn't tread is the no-man's land of "Is she ever going to write the sequel?" Because it's a whole other kind of torture to be waiting for the second book when there's no release date in sight. (By the by, there's no cliffhanger, if that's what you're thinking. I simply loved this story and want more. Like yesterday.)
"He looked up at me, dark brown eyes shining. "You're so beautiful," he slurred making me sure his lips were growing numb and his brain wasn't far behind. Figures. The first time a guy tells me I'm beautiful, I'm in hell and he's delirious."
"This kiss was a living thing. A wild and dangerous thing. It spread its wings and carried us out over the city, over the walls. Malachi tasted like the forest, like the sun, like every dream I'd ever had about what this moment should be."
“I wanted the chance to give him something, to give him the best of me, as pathetic as it was, damaged and broken, warped at the edges, hardly worth having. I decided that if I had the chance, if he asked, if he needed, it was his.”