Forbidden romances. Dystopian worlds. Unimaginable creatures. Dark nightmares. Beautiful dreams. All within the Realms of an Open Mind.
I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when I randomly chose to purchase Sanctum after browsing the iTunes audiobook store. I had never heard of it, hadn't read any reviews, barely knew what it was about... and I was absolutely and magnificently surprised to find myself in awe and basically bowing down to Sarah Fine's genius.
Lela has got some... issues, to put it lightly. Life's handed her a crap deal of cards ~ she's been abused, neglected, and beaten down in every way you could imagine. She finally catches a break when she finds herself in a decent home, at a decent school, where people actually treat her as a human being with emotions and needs rather than a burden or a toy to be played with at any time.
This is where she meets Nadia, the popular girl, opposite from Lela in every way. Nadia shows Lela that the future is worth planning for, that even Lela can have a life worth living. Nadia believes this about her friend, but she's not so great at convincing herself, slipping into a depression that eventually leads her to take her own life.
"Your friend is convinced she is unlovable, unreachable. Depression can do that to a person. She thinks no one can understand her. She ignores all evidence to the contrary, and it has led her to make some very tragic decisions."
Apparently, when you commit suicide, you don't end up in a field of wildflowers where you're bathed by sunlight, rainbows and happiness every day for eternity. You end up past the Suicide Gates, a special place in hell that's designed for those who need a little extra "therapy" before they can be ready for heaven.
Lela finds herself in heaven, but due to her fierce loyalty and love for Nadia, she takes it upon herself to defy the rules of the afterlife and save her best friend from having to endure this hell that she's put herself in. There's just one problem: people within the Suicide Gates are wrapped in their own turmoil to the point that they can barely recognize anything except their own pain, unable to truly help themselves.
They're so absorbed in their own sadness that they can't see past the darkness.
How do you find someone who doesn't even know she wants to be found? But Lela is determined to find Nadia, and there's nothing or no one that can stand in her way.
Lela is an amazing heroine, flawed but beautiful and strong in the face of all the odds stacked against her. She's afraid, but she's courageous, a relentless fighter. With these qualities, she gains the admiration and respect of Malachi and Anna, guards of the city that have endured their own unfair share of pain.
Anna is one of my favorite characters with her sarcasm and ability to look at a situation objectively. She's the voice of reason in the midst of all the emotion, but she has a history of her own (she did end up in hell, after all). I love it when side characters are developed and given substance in a story ~ creates more texture, layers, and believability.
Malachi is strong and stubborn, but he's also sweet and generous. He's deadly and feared as the captain of the guard, but Lela's endurance of her surroundings leaves him in awe. Their relationship is a cautious one, taken step by slow and steady step. I did think Malachi fell to his knees before her a little too quickly, never asking for an apology for totally turning his world upside down (not in a good way), but he doesn't push his feelings onto Lela, hence the reason I felt that they weren't rushed. Neither of them expects a "happily-ever-after," it seems impossible under the circumstances, but that doesn't stop them from wanting.
“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.”
Sarah Fine's writing style is gripping and detailed, in all its grotesqueness and beauty. The world-building is impeccable, and while the city beyond the Suicide Gates was pretty disturbing, it did the job of creating a dark, gritty, and "hellish" environment that you could believe and connect to.
Behind the Gates, the city clung to the slopes of its hill, a cement fungus.
Sanctum is about loyalty, love, and facing your demons. It's about coming to terms with the difference between "what you want and what you need." The pain, empathy, joy, realization, and hope feels all very real and will capture you until the very last word.
Highly recommend :).
Happy Reading Everyone :)