Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands #1) by Sarah Fine

Title: Sanctum
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands #1
Author: Sarah Fine
Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Pages: 433, Hardcover

“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.


Sanctum is:

What a fantastic debut. Sanctum has a lot to offer the YA community. Complex and intriguing characters. A well-paced, compelling storyline. A vivid and interesting setting. A believable romance. And a satisfying, stupid-grin-worthy ending. Where to begin?

Let's start with Lela and Malachi (but not Lela and Malachi, we'll save that for later!). When Lela first met Nadia she was broken, closed off, hopeless. With a past consisting of abuse, attempted suicide and near murder, it is no surprise that she was just going through the motions of life. But Nadia saw something in Lela and through friendship and kindness, helped Lela turn her life around for the better. When Nadia committed suicide, Lela followed her through the Suicide Gates to save her soul, not because she felt she owed Nadia, but because she loved her and wanted to be the friend that Nadia deserved. Lela's past made her resilient and her present made her loyal. She was a strong lead with a commanding presence.

The plot focuses on Lela's journey to find Nadia in the Suicide City. There is no shortage of action and suspense, which danger around ever corner. Along her way she crosses paths with Malachi (*sigh*), the leader of the city guards. Malachi reminded me a lot of Dimitri from Vampire Academy (for those familiar with the series). He was the best at his job, both feared and respected, dangerous but kind. Wanting to protect Lela from a fate worse than this city, he decides to accompany her in her search for Nadia.

The relationship between Lela and Malachi was intense. They were immediately drawn to each other,  for both reasons of curiosity and admiration. This initial connection only intensified in the face of danger when they had to rely on each other to survive. To complicate matters, their love was impossible. After all, they are in a version of hell that Lela is not meant to be in. But love knows no bounds and the passion continues to build. It was a very satisfying romance with an ending that doesn't disappoint. Again, I can make a connection to the relationship between Rose and Dimitri in VA. If you were a fan of their romance, you will likely be a fan of this one.

Sarah Fine does a good job with the imagery of the Suicide City. She provides more than just a backdrop by elaborating on the inhabitants and they way the system works. In the end I could vividly picture the city in my head and trust me, it was no place I ever wanted to end up. It was depressing, hopeless, and creepy.

"In the dark city, scents were faint and thin - nothing to hold on to, nothing that repelled me, nothing that drew me in"
"In the dark city, something sucked the life out of the color. Something vital had bled from it, leaving it easily defeated by darkness"
"In the dark city, sounds were shallow."

In summary, Sanctum really stood out for me among other YA novels. I finished the book feeling completely fulfilled. Great writing. Great ending (no loose ends). Heated romance. Adventure. You name it. I definitely recommend this book.



  1. I just have so much LOVE for this book and this review totally did it justice! I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who loves it this much!

  2. I agree with every single one of the adjectives you used to describe this book, especially "addicting!" I am desperately awaiting the sequel to this!

  3. I've heard awesome things about this book from my friends! Reading this makes me want to read it soon. Nice review btw!


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