The Last Sanctuary is obviously a product of a fair amount of research and plays a lot on what children enjoy reading: magic, including all sorts of magical creatures; different personas for our main characters (shy/loyal, reckless/dumb, smart/sensible), who cannot find anyone trustworthy so are forced to grow up and grow brave; nasty bad guys; poo, nose picking, and, of course, farts. Nasty, stinky, eye watering and possible deadly farts.
That said, to me it was only average. And it wasn’t even because of the farts; I actually laughed at some of Olivia’s lines. But during many passages, I felt the narrative was rushed, not enough explanations were given and the characters kept jumping to conclusions. Sort of like oh if that isn’t it, then this must be it! and I was like… No!! What about this, and that, and that…
In short, alternatives were not explored; a viable option would appear and the characters would assume it was right. The fact that plenty of times it was the right choice made me feel like the author took the easy way out in those situations.
Also, even though during the course of the book the characters really developed their own voice, there were times where personally I felt they did not sound 12 at all, particularly Rose. But I accept that the whole empowerment thing is very important for the book’s audience, certainly much more than any plot or character development issues. However, the fact is I have read books for such audiences before where there was such a balance, so I guess that contributed to me being more critical of this work. I felt like there wasn’t proper progression along the narrative, it was a bumpy ride.
There were many things I could point out; I will not get into specifics, since I posted a fair amount of them, if not most, in Book Lair’s buddy read topic (feel free to take a look: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2156787-the-last-sanctuary-28-jan?page=1), but my nose twitching afflicted me pretty much from the start. There was something off about the prologue (some things were still unclear by the end of the book); then, when the girls arrived, I felt they accepted the existence of magic way too quickly and easily; the times when death was mentioned, particularly when one of them had a close brush with death, sounded at the same time unemotional and overdramatic; etc, etc.
And then there were so many situations of the sort I described before, about assuming things from the get-go. I simply felt there were not enough facts for alternatives to be dismissed, which left me with a hollow feeling, that there was an end goal in mind so other stuff didn’t matter much. Personally, I would prefer some of the side stories to be taken out (and there were SO many of them) and have things properly explained than being handed such a huge book, for middle graders at least, with some things half done.
Things did improve towards the end, where we finally get several explanations, although I saw the plot twist coming from miles away. But those explanations felt crammed in those last chapters. I wish we would have been fed at least some previously, to ease the hollow feeling I had throughout the book.
Alas, for me personally, it is a book worth 2 stars because it was just ok. Despite all the care in the world building, some plot flaws were just too dramatic for me to overlook. But considering the audience, I will give it 3 stars, even though I have doubts that its length is appropriate to attract such readers.
Read from January 27 to February 01, 2015
I would like to thank the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.