Author: V. V. James
Publication date: 8th August 2019 (HB) // 2nd April 2020 (PB)
My rating: ★★★★☆
Goodreads rating: 4.11
Genre: Fantasy, crime/thriller, supernatural, mystery, YA
I received a copy of this book from the publishers Gollancz in order to review as part of the blog tour. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by receiving a gifted copy of this book in any way. I would like to thank the publishers Gollancz, Will O’Mullane, and the author V. V. James.
*Trigger Warnings – Rape and rape of a minor, molestation, physical and sexual abuse, hate speech, mentions of self harm, one animal death, sexism*
The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.
Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching…
Overall opinion of the book:
Wow. What a journey this book takes you on. I was engrossed in the plot from start to finish. Sanctuary was SO interesting and unlike anything I’ve read before, crime but with magical realism and witches?! Yes please!
The book has multiple narratives, focussing on Detective Maggie Knight, Sarah and her coven, and their children. This multiple narrative compliments the plot so well and is the perfect way of telling the story. It enables readers to have great insight into each character’s thoughts and association with the deceased teenager Dan. Usually I prefer one or two narratives in a story, but the way in which multiple narratives were used in Sanctuary was great and easy to follow, instead of being confusing. It built up suspense well and I was keen to continue reading. Many chapters ended with a cliff hanger, leaving me wanting to find out what happened next! Alongside the narratives there were snippets from police transcripts and the Sanctuary Sentinel, which complimented the over riding arch well.
There is so much to unpack in this book, but first I want to talk about the witchcraft and magic mentioned. The magical system used is fictional, yet so intricate and well thought out. It was fascinating to read about and it’s clear that James spent a long time planning it. The other witches mentioned in the book were interesting and if more books were written about these characters or based in the same world, I’d love to read them!
What’s so great about James’s writing is that although there are a lot of characters involved in this story, they are all so distinguishable from each other and each have a significant role to play. Although there are a lot of characters to think about at first, James provides readers with a principle character list at the beginning of the novel to refer back to if you’re ever unsure of which character is which.
Sanctuary is a book about witchcraft and a detective solving what could or could not be a murder, but there are also a lot of important and sensitive topics discussed, such as rape and molestation. These topics don’t make for an easy read, but James tackles them in a sensitive way and brings to light the importance of listening to victims and how damaging victim blaming can be.
The way in which witches are treated shines a light on how society as a whole can disregard people in a community for being different, whether that’s because of their sexuality, race, religion or gender. It emphasises that rape culture needs to be addressed and how slut shaming and victim blaming are serious issues.
It was interesting to read about how a seemingly perfect town can quickly display the cracks it has. I enjoyed how the plot unravelled as each secret was revealed. There were many unexpected twists and turns and just when I thought I’d figured out what had happened – I was proven wrong. This is definitely a sign of a great novel and it’s clear to see why this book is a Sunday Times top-ten bestseller!
The plot is unravelled at a good pace and there were many parts to the plot I didn’t anticipate happening. Sometimes you find in crime novels that the twist is so unrealistic that it takes away from the book itself, but Sanctuary is so well thought out and everything slots together perfectly at the end.
The intricacies of the coven were particularly interesting to me and how their relationship changed throughout the novel. I also particularly enjoyed hearing about Harper and the time she spends at Green Point. I would have enjoyed to have read more about this even though I know it wouldn’t have been key to the plot line.
The book emphasises the lengths families will go to protect themselves and each other, regardless of who will suffer because of it and the psychology behind their actions made me intrigued to read more.
I would have liked to have read more about the aftermath of the ending when everything settles down and seen some interactions between the coven and main characters. While the ending was great and brought the plot together well, it would have been interesting to have had a few more chapters from different character’s points of view about what happened. That’s just my personal opinion however and I still thoroughly enjoyed the ending.
Without giving too much of the plot away, what I did find quite amusing was that there were mentions of flu and quarantine. As I was reading the book I was thinking about the characters and the freedom they have compared to us all being currently in lockdown. I did let out a little giggle at the irony of the book I’m reading during isolation mentioning a whole town quarantine!!
I really enjoyed Sanctuary – it was unique, interesting and completely unlike anything I’ve read before. The plot was well thought out, character driven and drew me in from beginning to end. Each character had its own important role to play and all were intriguing to read about, especially Sarah and Harper.
I’d love to read more about these two characters, the characters from Green Point and the magical system in this book in the future. There’s so much potential for there to be a sequel or more books set in this world – I’d personally love to read that!
The writing, punctuation and grammar were fantastic and I loved James’s writing style; it was easy to follow and kept me entertained throughout. There are some heavy aspects to this book, but James handles them in a sensitive way and sheds an important light on them.
After wanting to read this book since before the hardback was released, I can confirm that it didn’t disappoint at all and the hype surrounding this book is completely justified. It’s fantastic and certainly worth a read, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!
If you would like to pre-order a copy of this book, you can do so here:
The Hardback was released on the 8th August 2019 and the paperback will be released on the 2nd April 2020. Definitely pick up a copy of the hardback or preorder a copy of the paperback if you haven’t already! 😊
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Sanctuary blog tour, running from 27th March to 6th April. It’s full of brilliant bloggers who are either reviewing Sanctuary or running Q&A’s with the author V. V. James herself! You don’t want to miss out on this awesome content! The blog tour poster is below so you can follow the tour around everyone’s blogs 😊:
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