Author: Sarah Fine
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands, #1
To escape her abusive foster father, Lela Santos wraps a belt around her own neck, buckling it and cutting off her own air supply. When she wakes, she finds herself in a dark city, surrounded by people, muddled and stumbling toward the Suicide Gates. Before she can fully comprehend where she is, she’s pulled back and resuscitate. After a stint in a juvenile detention center after attacking her foster father, Lela finds herself very alone at a new school. Then she meets the beautiful and privileged Nadia, and the two of them forge an unlikely friendship. Lela begins to hope for a brighter future than she’s ever allowed herself to imagine.
This should be the end of the story, but it is only the beginning because Nadia, though perfect on the outside, struggles with her own demons. When Nadia takes her own life, Lela is left with the guilt of not having done more. And when Lela begins to have visions of her friend arriving at the same Suicide Gates she saw years ago, she’s desperate to rescue Nadia. Lela will give up everything and travel to Hell to rescue her friend and no one, not even the ruthless Guard Malachi, will stop her.
“My scrabbling fingers curled around cobblestone, the grit digging up under my fingernails. I raised my head, and saw the Gates. They swung wide, like the pincers of a giant insect, their spires rising into a black-and-purple sky, their hinges shrieking, shrieking, shrieking…
Like a hook buried in my stomach, it reached for me. My bare feet moved automatically, slapping against rough stone. Shoulders jostled me. Someone stumbled against me and grabbed a fistful of y nightgown, and I ripped myself away. I was in the middle of an endless, faceless crowd, all of us lurching like zombies toward the Gates.”
Sarah Fine’s Sanctum was a really pleasant surprise for me. The shining beacon of this book is of course Lela herself, this strong and vulnerable girl. She’s tough and capable, but she’s also sensitive and haunted. It’s nearly impossible for her to trust anyone completely because to trust is to hand over control and her past makes it almost inconceivable for her to do this. As her relationship with Malachi alters, so does her willingness to open up, but what I most admired was despite this, she never let go of her first mission. She was loyal to Nadia to the very end.
Malachi. Oh, I lost sleep because of Malachi. What can I say about him? He was sensitive to Lela’s misgivings and this couple with the fact that he was continually impressed by her strength, made him pretty irresistible. Yes, there were a few cheesy moments, but not enough to repel me. Because of who Lela is, I think only a person like Malachi could possibly reach her. He wasn’t this looming presence, but rather a pillar Lela could lean on.
Sanctum is full of nightmares come to life and hard lessons about the walls we build around ourselves and the guilt that follows when losing someone you love. It’s about learning that not everything is within our control, which may be the hardest lesson of all.