sanctuary book coverReviewed by Alethea B.

In the middle of the Balkan Civil War, Lea Kostovic finds herself on the wrong side of the border for a person of her ethnic descent. Without a realistic possibility of surviving the winter on her own, Lea chooses to accept Major Russell’s offer of trading sex for protection, shelter, and survival. By the end of Major Russell’s deployment, both find that their relationship has grown into something more than just a business arrangement; they must now try and build a marriage from an initially unhealthy bond.

On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sanctuary, Julian’s sophomore novel. I’m interested to see what will develop as she matures in her writing. Her sense of what makes an interesting plot and her pacing have already hit a rather sweet spot. In addition, Julian’s description of the alienation of depression hit the ‘uncanny valley’ for me, matching just enough of my personal experience for the off notes to be really jarring.

On the other hand, I thought the characters were lacking in depth and wanted a better sense of emotional continuity. With a notable exception or two, events felt like rocks that were dropped into a pond but failed to create any ripples.

I also found that Sanctuary’s back cover teaser was at odds with the story within, and seemed to be based on a reading of a summary rather than the entire book. The plot points were accurate, but events that were emphasized did not occur until much later in the novel.  The character descriptions were also off enough to give a different feel to the story than what readers get once they delve inside.

This book was provided free of any obligation by N.E. Julian. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.