Sanctuary by V.V James
Published: August 8th 2019 by Gollancz
“The bad days were behind us, and our friendships and theirs were stronger than ever. Lies, lies, lies. And they all knew it.”
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 . . .
I received an e-Arc via Netgalley from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. One of my friends has been recommending Vic James books to me for a couple of years now and I’ve never quite made it around to them but when she got mega excited after reading Sanctuary, Vic’s newest book I knew it was finally time and this witchy murder mystery was just the place to start.
Sanctuary, out August 8th, has been one of the most intense page-turning books I have read this year and has already become a firm favourite. I absolutely flew through it in just a couple of days. In the world Sanctuary is set in, almost everything is the same as we already know it except Witchcraft is a normal every day, mostly accepted occurrence with its own rules and state-mandated laws and such, which I found fascinating but also very grounded. I also loved the particular brand of witchcraft we see used with charts, herbs, hand gestures and energy as well as the fact that different witches from around the world use different varieties of spell casting derived from their personal culture and traditions. One particular detail I really enjoyed was the explanation that witches familiars are considered an important role as they are a witches connection back to the earth and nature. You could really feel Vic had done her research, there’s not a huge amount of really obvious world-building to be done but all the tiny details, as well as the big ones, were executed brilliantly and so organically as well as the general feeling of the town which almost felt like it’s own entity at times.
The story is told from three main points of view, two distraught mothers on either end of a possible murder and police officer, Maggie trying to unravel it all. Following these particular characters was a fantastic choice, watching events unfold from each ‘side’ was particularly interesting and then seeing how Maggie dealt with said information or revelation and the conclusions she then came to as a result, not to mention that she was fantastic at injecting a little humour into the narrative here and there which impressively didn’t feel out of place in a book that is otherwise fairly dark. I loved seeing how far each of the three women were willing to go to protect themselves, what they believed in and the ones they love as well as the way their friends and neighbours reacted to the turn of events. Every character, even ones who weren’t what I would call “main” supporting characters felt interesting and solid, I found most of these characters very easy to picture and each had memorable traits without falling into stereotypical troupes (for the most part). Sanctuary has an insanely interesting and thrilling narrative but it also very much feels like a startling study of the darker corners of human nature.
To start with, the plot seems simplistic in nature and like any other “whodunnit” kind of mystery with a few extra additions such as the inclusion of witchcraft but still enjoyable and as the story continues on it becomes a whole other creature full of secrets, lies, twists and turns leaving you pointing fingers every which way and really taking a good hard look at your own morals in the process. I’m not ready in any way shape or form to talk about that ending so you’ll have to wait for the spoilery book talk on Youtube for that because right now when I try to type about it I just bash my keyboard keys while making incoherent noises of pain and anxiety. Every secret feels expertly layered as each revelation becomes tangled in a web of persecution and fear, author Vic James has a terrifying gift and I can’t wait to read more of her books if this standard of writing is the norm because it absolutely blew me away.
Sanctuary is out August 8th but if you were lucky enough to have picked up an early copy at YALC or the beautiful green sprayed edges edition in July’s Illumicrate you may have already read it but if not make sure you check out your local bookstore or most convenient retailer to preorder if you fancy a twisty, witchy murder mystery with bite.
Trigger Warnings: Rape of a minor by an older minor, gaslighting.
Also don’t forget to check out all of these other lovely bloggers taking part on the Sanctuary blog tour too!