Review: Sanctus by Simon Toyne (Spoiler Free)

Sanctus by Simon Toyne
Read: October 1 – October 11, 2012
Format: Paperback (library book), 576 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-203831-9

Publisher: Harper, 2011

Personal read.

Book Blurb: In the oldest inhabited place on earth, atop a mountain known as the Citadel, a Vatican-like city-state towers above the city of Ruin in modern-day Turkey. Now, thanks to media coverage of a climber’s assent, the eyes of the whole world are on a group that has prized its secrets above all things. For the Sancti–the monks living inside the Citadel–this could mean the end of everything they have built and protected for millennia . . . and they will stop at nothing to keep what is theirs.

For American reporter Liv Adamsen, driven by the memory of a tragic loss, an earth-shaking discovery awaits that will change everything…

My Opinion: I very likely wouldn’t have picked up Sanctus if it weren’t for the fact that I won The Key (book two of the series) in a Goodreads giveaway from HarperCollins. It just isn’t the sort of book I am normally drawn to. Sure, I read The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, but religious conspiracy thrillers are not my thing.

I wish I could say that Sanctus changed my opinion and I am now clamoring to get my hands on every religious conspiracy thriller I can find. But it didn’t. And I am not.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. But the prose lacked sparkle. There was never any point in time where I closed the book and exhaled, saying to myself “That was an exceptionally well written piece of prose!”. It just didn’t happen. It has happened before, and I hope it will happen again, but not with this book. The plot was fast paced and held a lot of suspense. In the same style of The DaVinci Code et al. the chapters are fairly short, so Sanctus reads pretty quickly.

I like that the book mixes an ensemble cast, women and men, and that the viewpoints are constantly shifting. It gives the reader a great perspective of the story from all sides. There seemed to be a few filler characters (Bonnie, the coroner as a detailed character). There was one plot point that irked me, though, and that was the relationship between Liv and Gabriel. It was believable at first, and then it just kind of went south. Also, near the end things got a little… unbelievable overall.

We aren’t dealing with a corrupt Catholic church in Sanctus (thankfully) which is part of what sets it apart from other books in the genre. But I almost feel like it could have been written about the Vatican and Holy Grail originally, and the editors said “Nope, too similar to others.” forcing Toyne to change it to Ruin and The Citadel and the Sacrament instead. It just isn’t different enough.

Bottom Line: A fast-paced, fairly easy read that follows the standard in religious conspiracy thrillers. I will be reading book two, as I have an obligation as a Goodreads winner. Without that obligation? It would still go on my to-read list, but as a very low priority.

(Image and book blurb courtesy of


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