Review of Sanctuary by V.V. James

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 . . us

Sanctuary is a book that wasn’t even on my radar, but a couple of months ago everywhere I turned it was there! Either as a recommendation from a friend or on instagram, plenty were talking it up a storm and with good reason.  it’s a contemporary setting which isn’t my usual preference but with a witchy storyline and a  “The Craft” vibe I went into it really hoping that it lived up to the hype. Truly it did, and then some.

What isn’t clear from the blurb is the huge Witchcraft element that’s involved, almost a parallel universe where witches are out in the open, they are regulated and monitored and allowed to practice under guidelines. I found this utterly fascinating and the level of research and detail really brought so much more vibrancy to the story. It was a great anchor for the book to have and everything surrounded it and interlocked with it brilliantly.

It’s a book that highlights and deals sensitively with, actually, a massive range of issues. It one for both YA and adult readers in my view as the high school element is actually pretty minor and the story balances well between the children and the adults. V.V. James gives a handy outline of the players at the start of the book, which was great as there are a lot, but I admit I didn’t really take them all in in the beginning. It took me a while to remember who everyone was at each POV switch initially. But multiple POV’s are my favourite and we glean so much from this perspective, emotions are running so high that it would have been difficult to properly convey the feeling without it.  Sanctuary is an exceptional exercise in inclusivity and because this is a book that does amazingly with representation in relationships and gender, it then makes the small minded bigotry of the town within the story stand out all the more. It’s also deep down a mystery book and whilst you may say that is obvious by the fact there is a crime to solve, it truly went so much deeper than that, everyone’s secrets and lies so utterly entrenched with one another’s each page felt like another petal being pulled away.

The characterisations were fantastic, I think that there wasn’t a single main player that I didn’t get a feel for. Sarah being the only witch in a small town, historically at the forefront of witch trials, dealing with a giftless daughter was one I felt huge empathy with. Always wanting magic to be the right answer and wanting her gift to help her friends and the town when more traditional means fail. Abigail’s portrayal of grief was exceptional and I have to say that out of all the tough topics in this book, it was Abigail’s reaction to her loss which got to me the most, the desperate need to place blame over getting answers was devastating in places. Finally Maggie, the investigator, had such an amazingly open mind and her discoveries and ability to deal with all of the sudden tangents and about turns of her investigation helped to make this such a page turning read.

I realise that I haven’t spoken in depth about the storyline itself in this review but honestly I don’t think I can without even mild spoilers because anything will give the game away. Ultimately this is an unstoppable read, with short punchy chapters which make putting it down near impossible. I saw none of the turns coming and my jaw was on the floor and tears were in my eyes. Sanctuary cast the best kind of spell on me and i’m definitely going to be reading more from this author as her writing style is amazing!


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