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on 16 January 2013
I bought this book on a whim despite or perhaps because of a bad review which seemed unjustly down on the romance element running through it, so wanted to make my own mind up. Happy to say I wasn't disappointed. Sanctum, set mainly in a fantasy realm is the story of loyalty, friendship and love. Yes, there is a strong romantic theme throughout the book and yes it probably will appeal strongly to the teenage market , nothing wrong with that....paired with the emotive subject of suicide,the author deals with this and other evocative issues sensitively whilst maintaining a fast action packed pace, in a richly detailed fantasy world with strong charactorisation leaving plenty of room for a sequel .
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on 5 December 2012
Buyer be warned: this is a romance novel under a different cover. If you're into heaving chests, soul-deep sighs and endless longing glances spiced up by a touch of something different, then this is for you.

If, like me, you were suckered into buying this book expecting some kind of fantasy novel then consider carefully because the cheese factor runs high in places. It's actually a romance novel. I can only assume Mills & Boon or Harlequin turned this one down.

The heroine of the novel is a typical romance novel heroine: stunningly, breath-takingly beautiful and yet, because of course she's a romance novel stereotype and not even a remote attempt at a character, she's totally oblivious to her good looks. Naturally, as all romance novel heroines are, she's damaged, vulnerable, and hides this behind an impenetrable wall of toughness. Well, she does have to make her hero work hard to get her, doesn't she?

Natually, her impenetrable wall of toughness is penetrated instantly by her best friend, her newest foster parent and just about every character (apart from the obvious baddies) she meets in her travels.

She's a tough cookie, independent woman who can't be touched by any man . . . except of course as soon as she meets her hero she melts entirely and spends her time falling over or even fainting. Yes, it's all an act imposed on her by the author. Heaven forbid she does anything butch to scare him off. This is a romance novel of course so he's the one who's got to do all the running while she just has to look like interesting bait.

So, to the hero: hard to say what he's like because he isn't given any characterisation over and above what's required of a romance novel hero: stunningly gorgeous, muscled and "a perfect specimen". Naturally, he's a tortured soul, suffering emotional pain that only his romance novel heroine can understand and rescue him from, with a minimal backstory that conveniently disappears.

Unlike any real human male, he communicates to his heroine in true romance novel hero style: he rasps, he moans, he groans, he gasps, he shudders uncontrollably, his heart beats against his chest, a muscle in his jaw twitches often and he radiates both heat and an intoxicating scent. I wish I were making this up, but I'm not: this book is filled with drivel like this towards the end.

Like any good romance novel, they suffer the twist in the middle where one misunderstands the intentions of the other and runs away. All this is required, of course, in order to force a confession of love out of them both so that they can sink into each other's arms at the end. Probably with a shudder or a moan.

It's a shame the author thought it necessary to trot out every romance story cliche because if you can shovel off the codswallop, it's actually a good story in an interesting setting that poses some very thoughtful questions.

Possibly teenagers still consumed by their first love will eat this up, but grownups who can tell the difference between lust dressed up as romance and genuine love are advised to pass on this.
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on 15 January 2013
Sarah Fine's Sanctum is nothing short of original, with a whole world dedicated to the lost, wandering souls of suicide victims. Beyond the Suicide Gates lies the Shadowlands, patrolled by the ferocious Guards and their human captain Malachi. We follow Lela Santos' inadvertent journey into Suicide City in an attempt to rescue her best-friend Nadia. It is a dark story, both gritty and emotional, but never dull or draining. Fine has a natural way with words, crafting a brilliantly thought-out world and exciting storyline - one that is full of action, creativity and romance.

As thrilling and well-paced as the plot is, it is the characters that make the greatest impression here. Let me get straight in there and tell you Malachi is quite something. He is the very definition of a well-built love interest, a character that manages to provide genuine moments of endless swoooon, whilst also standing on his own two feet and being more than that. His hardened, steadfast personality is complemented by Lela's determination and courage. These two together were the perfect team. I'm not ashamed to admit that the romance was my favourite part of this book.

I will say that it took me a little while to warm to Lela. I also wish Nadia's character had felt less ambiguous. These, however, were my only concerns with this book, and for the first instalment of this series, Fine did a spectacular job. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 April 2014
This had been on my kindle for a while, I had started it about the same time I started re-reading Article 5 and as I got more engrossed in it this book got put to the side.
I came back to it the other night and I am glad I did. You may have noticed so far that I am a fan of these types of books – ie: strong damaged teenage girl type who falls for strong damaged gorgeous sexy teenage boy type, this is a love story of sort but is set in Hell.
Lela is said damaged teenage girl who is in the foster system, during her time a high school she meets Nadia who seems to be the perfect preppy princess type and they become best friends to the dismay of Nadia’s other pals.
Unfortunately it turn out that Nadia has a lot of demons of her own which result in her suicide, during this time we find out Lela has been having visions of Nadia in a dark scary city and following Nadia’s death, feeling responsible Lela decides she needs to go to Nadia’s aide in this dark city and to do this she has to commit suicide.
To avoid spoilers I will summarise the next bit!!
After arriving in the city Lela gets captured by the guards and the fearsome leader Malachi who unlike the other guards is human, following various events Lela and Malachi try to find Nadia who has been captured by the Mazakin who are the enemies of the guards.
There is a second book so I won’t got any further in my description but to say that Lela and Malachi have that perfect love/hate relationship which is more love by the end of the book.
I really enjoyed this book and will download the second book Fractured shortly!
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on 1 July 2014
What a brilliant book, imaginative, gripping, thrilling, and such good characters. This is one book that I found hard to put down. If you enjoy fantasy thrillers then this is one excellent book. The next book in this series is even better!
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on 20 October 2014
Fantastic book. Aimed at young adults, but this 40+ year old loved it!
Lela's friend Nadia has killed herself. Lela knows that Nadia will have ended up in the Dark City (part of the Shadowlands), a dark and scary place where all suicides end up. After an accident, Lela finds herself able to go to the Dark City and chooses to enter the city to try and find her friend and to rescue her. She has to escape detection by the Guards (she does not belong here) but it soon becomes apparent that the Guards are not the most violent or frightening thing hunting her in here.
I couldn't put his down and instantly ordered the second part (Fractured) and read that in equally quick time. I thought the premise was original and gripping and the characters intricate and believable. I have been recommending it to everyone!
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on 2 November 2014
Just finished the whole series and would recommend to anybody who loves the genre. The shadowlands are the different versions of the afterlife people go to depending on how they lived their life. Murderers go to the wasteland and suicides go to the dark city and the countryside is like heaven. The sanctum is were the judge lives, who is a bit like god. The story is about Lela, who dies and goes to the countryside but leaves to go to the dark city to rescue her friend who committed suicide, and so starts an adventure with lots of action and some romance.
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on 2 October 2013
Lela, a foster kid, has had her fair share of trouble growing up, but it has only served to make her tougher. When she stands up for the most popular girl in school, she unexpected gains a best friend. When this best friend, Nadia, then commits suicide, Lela knows she must try to save her from Suicide City, a place she's already familiar with.

Unfortunately, this didn't work for me as much as I expected. Malachi's feelings for Lela developed straight away, and this doesn't appeal to me. After one meeting with her, he's willing to step completely out of character, and risk his life for her.

I enjoyed the plot, and Malachi was quite awesome, but at times, this felt a little too romance based for me. (Very unusual for me to make this statement). Lela was a character who quite annoyed me at times, and I didn't know whether I should admire her for her dedication to helping her friend, or hate her for how her actions were hurting Malachy and the others. So, I was frustrated with her for most of this book.

The ending worked well for me though, even if it was a little too good to be true. But it makes and interesting setting for book 2 :)
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on 22 July 2014
I had no idea what age or gender that this book was designed for but looking at the reviews and the wide range of ages reading it...and more importantly the price on kindle, I bought it and I was not dissapointed. The book delves on what happens in the afterlife after committing suicide, very strange subject to dwell on but somehow the author has made a very credible and compelling read. There is romance in the story and I am presuming the book was based on young lady readers but as a mature man I gave a quick 'yeuch' to the romantic pages and quickly moved on. Perhaps the author can make future story lines in the follow up books with a view that there are mature readers out there who are not against the romance but keep the 'sugar icing' to a limit.
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on 6 October 2013
When I started this book I thought I had picked the wrong one to read. A damaged teenager on a last-chance fostering helps protect a spoiled rich girl and is then be-friended by her. Not my sort of book.
But then the tale takes off. Lela had attempted suicide in her past. This had taken her via the Suicide Gates to a terrible city, a region of Hell where all suicides ended up. It recurs in her dreams. Then her world falls apart as her friend Nadia commits suicide. Not only does Lela know where Nadia's soul will be but she finds herself having visions of her friend in the City where Guards patrol and kill seemingly innocent civilians. The only way to help her is to kill herself and find her own way back to the Suicide Gates.
I really enjoyed this book and have already pre-ordered the sequel
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