Friday, May 1, 2015

Reader's Review: "Sanctuary" by Pauline Creeden

Synopsis from Amazon:

"In a heart-racing thriller described as Falling Skies meet The Walking Dead, Jennie struggles to find a safe place for what’s left of her family. But it seems as though there is no place sacred, no place secure. First the aliens attacked the sun, making it dimmer, weaker, and half what it used to be. Then they attacked the water supply, killing one-third of Earth’s population with a bitter contaminate. And when they unleash a new terror on humankind, the victims will wish for death, but will not find it…

When the world shatters to pieces around her, will Jennie find the strength she needs to keep going?"

My Review:

There are some books that I will read based on the blurb alone. There are only a handful of authors that I have experienced so much good from that I will willingly seize any book that crosses my path bearing their name, regardless of the genre. "Pauline Creeden" is one of those.

As a rule, I tend to be too squeamish for horror and I don't even watch the shows mentioned in the blurb--but if there's one thing I can trust when it comes to her books, it is the fact that the story will be a simple one, full of richly-developed characters and an intriguing twist to common conceptions of whichever genre she chooses. Whether it's a steampunk-era assassin who encounters witches and magic or an intergalactic space cruiser haunted by a demon, Creeden treats it all with the same finesse and tact, guiding her characters through their own circumstances and bringing the reader a rare treat of an in-depth experience where no one is given all the answers.

Sanctuary is no exception. It's billed as a "Hunger-Games-type novel", and the blurb does seem to focus on Jennie quite a bit--but I rather think the focus was evenly balanced toward characters like Hugh and Brad as well. (In fact, I think for about half the book I assumed Jennie to be quite a bit younger than Creeden may have intended--I just didn't realize she was so far in age from her five-year-old brother, I guess...) The scenario is very much like your average "apocalyptic End Times" novel--but Creeden shows her style in adding her own atypical twists, such as the alien race responsible for most of the destruction described in the Bible passages quoted, and honing in on just one small town's efforts of survival, instead of spreading too thin trying to wreak havoc on a global scale.

Ages aside, the action was plenty enthralling, and--though unorthodox--the lack of "reader omnipotence" only heightened the mystique, as each character only knew as far as they had or could observe, and there wasn't any character (or even the narrator) whom I could "use" to figure out why things appeared or happened the way they did. Things had to be interpreted and taken at face value--exactly as if I was hunkered down in the town with them.

Sanctuary was a great read, full of vitality, brutality (WARNING: lots of zombies and blood), and all of the questions that would arise at the end of the world--and it's far from over! I'd give this book four stars, a Definitely Recommended, and I am looking forward to the sequel!