Sanctum: A Book Review


Book: Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowland #1)
Author/Authoress: Sara Fine

The colours seem dark and moody but that’s a good thing since that’s what the book promises to be. The cityscape looks desolate and depressing but the girl’s pretty and fit’s into the cover perfectly.

Setting: 5/5
It was dark, gritty, and imaginative- a horrible Wonderland you could say. The city was a shadowy, hellish place. To give you a perspective on the city, let me tell you about the dark tower. The dark tower had the ability to bring back your worst fears and nightmares. And it was smack dab in the middle of the city-impossible to circuit around. If this doesn’t sound creepy and creative to you, I don’t know what will.

Plot:  4/5
(Taken from

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.
Characters: 3/5
Lela’s backstory would wring sympathy out of anyone: she has  overcome a lot in her short life. Shuffled from one foster home to another, she has suffered abuse from her foster parents. Lela almost succeeds in killing herself after being repeatedly assaulted by foster parent but is able to overcome her past with the help of the unexpected friendship of Nadia.

Nadia is the golden-girl with a couple of hidden secrets. Even though she’s beautiful reasonably intelligent, popular and affluent, she has a dysfunctional home life. This is what brings her closer to Lela. The girl’s unlikely friendship, while baffling to the outside world, makes sense to the two girls. Nadia goes against the pressure to only maintain friendships within her own clique to specifically keep this friendship alive. She constantly  Lela to hope for more in life than just getting-by. In her turn, Lela cars deeply for Nadia. When Nadia gets bogged down in despair and starts using drugs, Lela does her best to help Nadia save herself. She doesn’t succeed and Nadia eventually  commits suicide. The friendship between the two girls is fresh and beautiful. I can actually feel Lela’s pain when she hears that Nadia committed suicide. But then Malachi makes an appearance and Lela just starts slipping out of character. It becomes harder to empathize with her. She just is so different.  He’s bad ass but his roughness and toughness just seems to be too forced. I think ths story would have been better without the romance angle at all. Seriously, falling in love in hell is a bad idea.

Romance: 1/5
It wasn’t really insta-love but the gradual attraction between Lela and Malachi felt wrong to me. Overall, Malachi seemed drawn to Lela by her strength and tenacity in the face of a daunting situation. Which is not bad… until he dropped all his responsibilities to do everything in his power to help this “fascinating” creature. Malachi  was perfect to the point of being a Gary-Stu. He seemed to exist for the sole purpose of protecting and loving Lela .  Malachi seemed drawn to Lela by her strength and tenacity in the face of a daunting situation. Which is a good thing but then he  dropped all his responsibilities to do everything in his power to keep this creature in a safety bubble.Without Lela, he barely has any character in the book.  He knew very little about her and repeatedly had to clean up her mess, and yet he was willing to sacrifice and throw away everything for her like none of it mattered anymore now that she was in his life. Disgusting.

Action: 3/5
I know a lot of people like the action in the book but to me it was at most mediocre. More chilling and easy to visualize were Lela’s flashbacks and travel through the tower. But I guess that’s action of a different type.

Technical Terms: 3/5
The world building uses a lot of new terms and almost all of it is in the form of an info dump. It gets tedious to read and kind of detracts from the main plot. Almost everybody who reads this book tells me that they didn’t completely understand the world. I completely empathize. Sarh Fine has created an amzing world; she just didn’t describe it well.
This was probably the biggest flaw in the book after the messed up romance.

Just look at the Romance and Character section.

Overall Rating: 3.5
This book has all the problems that YA books usualy have. i.e. a messed up romance and info dumping but Sarah Fine does create an amazingly dark new world with straightforward, creepy villains. The characters have a lot of potential to grow. I’d say wait until the third book comes out to start reading this series. It’s not worth the long wait for the other books.

P.S. The sequel Fractured has already been released.


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