Friday, September 2, 2011

Never trust a monk—or a publisher

Sanctus
by Simon Toyne

Once upon a time, I used to describe myself as, “the person who read Dan Brown before The Da Vinci Code.” Subsequent to the unprecedented success of that novel and its many, many “Da Vinci clones,” I’ve been completely burned out on religious thrillers. Until now. Kudos to Simon Toyne on a highly entertaining debut novel, and for writing a religious thriller that didn’t feel like the same old thing.

Most of Sanctus’s action takes place in and around the historic Citadel in Ruin, Turkey. I’m mildly amused to see that I’m not the only reader tricked into thoroughly Googling this fictional landmark in this fictional town. Props to Toyne for making his setting seem real enough that I asked myself, “Why don’t I know about this place?”

In Toyne’s reality, this Turkish Citadel on a mountain is perhaps the longest continuously inhabited place on earth. A sect of secretive monks has lived there since before the birth of Christ, studying, praying, and guarding their “Sacrament.” The exact nature of that sacrament may be the most closely guarded secret on the planet. Only a handful of the hundreds of monks know the truth, and apparently some of the initiates to the inner circle can’t handle the truth.

In the novel’s opening pages, Brother Samuel is locked in a room after his traumatizing initiation. He knows they intend to kill him. Rather than die passively with the secret, he attempts a daring escape—climbing out the window and up an unscaleable mountain. Once he reaches the summit, Brother Samuel attracts worldwide attention when he plummets 1,000 feet to the ground on live television. His actions are as incomprehensible to watchers as they are tragic.

Back in the States, we have previously met newspaper reporter Liv Adamsen. She is mourning the absence of someone close to her. After 8 years, he has been declared legally dead. The connection between these two people was not immediately apparent to me, but when it is finally made clear, it is pretty darn cool. Other major and secondary characters are introduced along the way. Make no mistake, this is a book about plot, not character, but Toyne does such a good job cloaking his characters in hints of intriguing back stories that I continually wished to know more.

Given that this is a 500-page tale of a centuries-old struggle, Toyne does an exceptionally good job of containing the sprawl. The cast is made up of a manageable number of people. Toyne has plotted very cleverly. Everything and everyone is there for a reason. He does not indulge in the superfluous. And he keeps the story moving swiftly with short chapters, lots of white space on pages, and revelations at regular intervals. Rather than dwell on dreary theological issues, Toyne’s tale is all about the action. He’s written some very bloodthirsty monks and the body count is high. Will anyone make it to the end of the novel?

By the time the Sacrament is finally revealed, you’ve been given enough clues to have figured it out on your own. I did not realize before starting this book that it is the first volume in yet another trilogy. (And, I swear to God, publishers, you have to start warning unsuspecting readers about this before they invest their time in an unfinished story.) While the novel does come to a reasonably satisfactory ending of this arc of the story, it is clear that there is much more that remains to be told. I feel a bit torn about this. Clearly I enjoyed this novel. But I’m tempted to quit now and cut my losses. I don’t feel that I absolutely must go on, and I’m somewhat grateful for that. I guess I’ll read the description of the next novel and decide then if it’s of interest.

35 comments:

  1. Just started reading "Sanctus" - certainly enjoying it more than a number of other novels in the same genre.
    Shlomo

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  2. Half way through, don't want to put it down. Certainly one of the best written novels I have read in along time.

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  3. Just finished the novel. Kept me from doing almost all of my household chores!

    I also was tricked into thinking the Citadel in Ruin Turkey was a real place!

    Patricia

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    1. So did I, until I read this Blog; I am only half-way through the book, but I had to check out the authenticity of the Citadel. I am disappointed that the setting is not real, but the book is so far intriguing.

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  4. Sanctus defintely appears to be a crowd pleaser!

    I recently acquired a copy of Sanctus's sequel, The Key. It's the second novel in the trilogy. I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing it on the blog in the near future. :-)

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    1. I was pleased to see how your review of Sanctus mirrored my thoughts. Very hard to put down. Finished it quick and yet not sure I want to move on to books 2 & 3. I did want to know more about the twins' lives before they separated, since you mentioned it. I loved how everything came together at the end of this book, and of course, I too searched for the mystical city of Ruin.

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    2. I've only just started it, so I appear to be about three years behind the crowd. I'd not heard of this book until it popped up on a list of Nook options in an e-mail. I'm staying up far too late into the night because I can't make myself put it down. "I'll just finish this next chapter and then turn the light out." The next chapter becomes the next chapter and the next...well, you get the picture. I tried three times to read THE DAVINCI CODE before giving it up as a lost cause. I seem to be the only person between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans who didn't love it. Too bad, because I usually enjoy Dan Brown's work. Will I read the next two segments of Mr. Toyne's trilogy? Probably, but with reservations going in. I find that sequels often crash and burn. I hope that doesn't happen to Toyne's efforts because I'd like to think I've found a new favorite author.

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  5. On page 193. Read through part of the night. Too bad I had to work today. I'd been on pg. 400 instead! Good book. Best kind!!

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  6. 25 years ago, I lived in the area. I was very put-off by the very Christian slant, even in a Christian thriller, of a very anti-Christian region. I spent the whole weekend (without Internet) pissed at inaccuracies until I discovered until (after reading on the Internet) that the whole region is ficticious. Mr. Toyne did an excellent job of drawing me in and keeping me interested. I would have liked more educational/realistic details, but you can't fault his incredible story telling cabability.

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  7. I too was wondering why I had never heard of this corner of the world, having read the first 100 pages or so of 'Sanctus'. It is hard to put the book down after a work break, I must say, and am looking forward to its completion this weekend, as well as getting a hold of 'The Key' to see what might happen next. Great yarn, skillfully woven, and almost disappointed that the area of Ruin and its Citadel is fictional.............or is it? :)

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  8. Almost done with the second book, and already impatiently waiting on the third. I, too, wondered why I had never heard of Ruin, and was taken aback to find it fictional. Toyne does a fabulous job of creating something that seems so real!

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  9. Thanks for all the lovely comments, y'all! For the record, I did read and very much enjoy The Key, the second book in the trilogy, and will be grabbing a copy of the final volume as soon as it's offered to me. :-)

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  10. You'll kick yourself over and over if you dtop after the first. Kind of like Lays potato chips. You can't eat just one. Waiting for third to come out.

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  11. Just finished volume 2 (The Key) over the Christmas break)
    and enjoyed it.....not quite as good Sanctus, but enough for me to to decide to google the location....hence me finding your blog...... glad I am not the only one fooled.
    Regardless I am awaiting final volume 11.4.13

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  12. Really disappointed,was looking forward to visiting this Citedal!!!!!!
    Fed up of reading Trilogies.Do you think authors have worked out that if Trilogies sell well,its enough dosh for them to live comfotably for a normal life span?????

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  13. Yes, I too wondered why I had not heard of it and googled it! Enjoying Sanctus so far, although only in short bursts. Got all the ingredients of an exciting adventure.

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  14. Enjoyed reading this but left with an uneasy feeling.

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  15. Not only did I read and get intrigued to Google Ruin but I had to deal with a personal glitch in my Nook that kept taking me back to the beginning. Strange and inspiring as much of my own inheritrd dogma. I will read the rest of this trilogy. What a wonderful and dangerous imagination has Mr. Toyne.

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  16. the whole point in any novel is a)lure the reader in b)keep them intrigued c)at the end have them wanting more .Simon Toyne does it in spades so be gratefull 4 his trilogy or not !!!!!!!billybob

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  17. I was halfway through the book when I HAD TO GOOGLE FOR RUIN TURKEY. I found your blog near the top. I like it.

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  18. Well, you are correct. I started Sanctus two weeks ago (thanks to my father's gift of the book to me.) I hesitated in starting to read it because it was a bit long for an easy "day" read. (I am a working Mother with two boys, 8 and 12, and a 39 year old husband, so time is a bit limited.

    I picked it up and read the raving reviews and decided to dive. I honestly couldn't stop. I ordered The Key and The Tower off of Amazon to be delivered to my kindle app, that I don't much use, but was sooooo worth it. I was completely sucked in by this trilogy and finished it in it's entirety last night. I completely believed that the Ruins and the Citidel (though I questioned my education since I had not heard of them before) were completely real.

    This story, in its entirety, just rocked. I loved, loved, loved it and hope he writes again. I am stunned by the creativity and the story in whole. Just loved it and couldn't put it down. Late night reads for me. Highly recommend and honestly, I fell in love with all of the characters differently than I did with my very favorite Angels and Demons book, which is saying something. Maybe I was just ready for a nice new tromp through this kind of story.

    Thank you, Mr. Toyne, if you are reading this. I loved every one of your books and have a hard time even separating the experience since I was lucky enough to have started this adventure with all three books published. Could not put it down!!!!!!!!!

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  19. The book was enjoyable, but I think the Breath of God is a better religious thriller. Have to admit I just googled Ruin Turkey and that is how I came across this site.

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  20. Half way point. I had to put the book down, and look for flights to Ruin. Also fooled. Very good read.

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  21. It's comical how many people found this blog googling a fictitious place! Even more comically, I'm one of them! I'm glad I found such a charming corner of the net though, very serendipitous :-)

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  22. Ha ha! Me too - brought up in a very strict RC family and just googled Ruin as I thought I had been dragged to/educated of every religious site on the planet and couldn't work out which one it was!!! Simon Toyne must be very chuffed with himself - what a credit to his writing abilities.....

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  23. Just want to admit finding you on Google too, Susan! Liked your comments, so I've bookmarked you and will read more of your blog as time permits! Thank you. :-})

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  24. I have just found this site and I love it. I heave read Sanctus and have obtained a copy of the Key and am about to read it. I concur with your review. The small chapters kept the pace high, making the reader read just one more chapter even though they were out of time. I did google Ruin only to find I too had been suckered in to believing its existence. The story was not too patronising on the religious front, nor did it make out that religion is either a good or bad thing. It just exists. Great work.

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  25. Just finished Sanctus and what an entertaining read and Tyrone has a great way of making it believable. The pace keeps you interested, very interested. In reality this is an unbelievable story what makes it great is the fact that so many of us have researched the city of Ruin willing it to all be true. That shows the excellent talent of the author.

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  26. I also, was fooled into googling Ruin, whilst reading this entertaining book.
    I couldn,t help being reminded of the citadel or 'cite" in Midi, France, which does exist, from another excellent book "Labrynth" (Kate Moss)
    Kudos to Simon Toyne,

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  27. Yes, I wondered if it was a real place as well. I have only just started Sanctus and I am hooked.

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  28. Yes, I wondered if it was a real place as well. I have only just started Sanctus and I am hooked.

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  29. Same here! Picked up a hard copy of Sanctus at the Salvation Army Store several days ago. Almost forgot to eat! Immediately ordered The Key and The Tower from Amazone as soon as I read the last page. Wow! Am now into half of The Key and just googled Ruin (as you all did! :-) And here we all are, Susan, brought together by this marvelous author and your wonderful review! Kudos to both!

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  30. I should know by now that if Barnes and Noble is giving a decent book away, that it's going to be a trilogy.. But, I'll just have to wait until the end to pass final judgment.

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  31. Just finished Sanctus in 3 days, couldn't put it down. I also googled Citadel and almost floored me that it's fictional. Haven't read a book in ages and I must say, it was good! Looking forward to getting my hands on the 2nd book. Good one Mr. Toyne!

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  32. Have absolutely enjoyed Sanctus, cannot wait to now start the second one. Has kept me wanting to find out what happens and cant put the book down. thanks for such a great book.

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