Sanctuary by Vic James
When star quarterback Daniel Whitman plummets to his death at a house party, the small town of Sanctuary is rocked to its core. Though it might look like an accident, it’s not long before rumours start to surface of a spurned ex-girlfriend (Harper) and her witch mother (Sarah) having a grisly hand in the incident.
Whether in film, TV or literature, small towns have rarely been kind to their inhabitants. V.V. James’ new novel, Sanctuary, manipulates our ready and waiting bias to weave a tale of paranoia, witchcraft and just possibly, murder.
The Dark Gifts author wastes no time diving into the drama, scripting chapters that read like episodes from a CW show; every one finishing with a cliff-hanger that leaves you no choice but to plunge into the next one, and then the next one, until somehow it’s gone midnight and you didn’t even notice.
For the most part it’s a gripping ride, and one easy enough to enjoy, but as with any good thriller, there’s a lot to keep your eye on. Whether it’s the rapidly deteriorating mother of the victim, the suspiciously tame school principle – hell, even the local handyman – everyone has their secrets, and they’re all coming out.
While many of James’ characters prove interesting (I’d read another novel about Detective Maggie Knight or Pierre Martineau whenever she’s ready), more than a few fall short of the complexities and intrigue you’d expect based on her previous work in the ‘Dark Gifts’ trilogy (the Jardines being a particular stand out).
Sarah, witch of Sanctuary turned victim of mob mentality, feels surprisingly one-note despite her key role in the story. Her coven - Julia, Abigail and Bridget - are an interesting bunch, with Bridget proving especially sympathetic in her attempts to save the group from fracturing beyond repair. Abigail, mother of the deceased and the biggest plot motivator, regularly risks straying into caricature with her grief-stricken actions that often feel too far-fetched, while Julia… well, Julia is pretty forgettable.
All the characters suffer somewhat under the constrictions of first person prose, with many chapters reading like not much more than a list of questions. The first person perspective also limits how much we can explore the characters’ back-story, as there is too much focus on the whys and wherefores of solving the case that started the book. As a result, occasionally some of the characters seem to blur into each other with little distinction.
Where James really succeeds however is in selling her world, one where witches are a part of every town and society. They have rights and specific laws, as well as being relied upon as doctors, counsellors and everything in-between. James sews this idea seamlessly into her narrative, creating a very natural and believable universe that’s fun to think about even when you’re not reading it.
The author’s tale is also peppered with commentary on issues such as xenophobia, fear-culture and the fragile state of human society – topics we’ve probably all thought about at some point and which she shrewdly addresses here. It’s an interesting perspective – and a timely one. Sometimes, it can seem like we’re living on a knife edge, just waiting to fall to one side or the other, and it might only take the softest gust to push us off.
James’ new novel is a pacey and enjoyable read that while not quite reaching the heights of her previous work, offers many enjoyable whodunnit thrills.
This Sanctuary book review was written by Alice Wybrew
Have you read Sanctuary?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Sanctuary reader reviews
7.6/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Galaxy 'Alex' Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school earl...
The Grimnoir Chronicles
Jake Sullivan is a war hero, a private eye—and an ex-con. He’s free because he has a magical talent, being able to alter the force of gravity in himself and obj...
Three Parts Dead
A god has died, and it's up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His cit...
A storm is coming... Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longe...
Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly pr...
The City of Lost Fortunes
Post–Katrina New Orleans is a place haunted by its history and by the hurricane’s destruction. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is likewise burdened by his past a...
Rosemary and Rue
The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie's survival: but no secret can b...
Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning. Reluctantly, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son but this pushes his already strained mar...
Guild of Tokens
She wants to level up her humdrum existence. But her next quest could spell life or death.All Jen Jacobs has achieved in life is loneliness. So when she stumbles acr...
Great fantasy books published in 2019
A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay
International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay's latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose li...
The Raven Tower
For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unres...
The 10,000 Doors of January
Alix E Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut....
The Priory of the Orange Tree
A world divided.A queendom without an heir.An ancient enemy awakens.The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen S...
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.Meet Dodger, his twin. Numb...
A Little Hatred
War. Politics. Revolution. The Age of Madness has arrived... The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep a...
Beneath the Twisted Trees
Çeda was an elite warrior in service to the kings of Sharakhai. She has been an assassin in dark places. A weapon poised to strike from the shadows. A voice from the...
The Hod King
Thomas Senlin and his crew of outcasts have been separated, and now they must face the dangers of the labyrinthine tower on their own in this third book in the word...
Nona Grey’s story reaches its shattering conclusion in the third instalment of Book of the Ancestor.THEY CAME AGAINST HER AS A CHILD. NOW THEY FACE THE WOMAN....
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: