PUBLICATION DATE: OCTOBER 30, 2012
anny is serving a 50 year sentence for a crime that Renee committed. He’s handling his time in prison quite well; he’s renounced violence and is simply doing what needs to be done to survive. However, all that changes when he’s transferred to Basal, an experimental, rehabilitation prison. On the surface it appears to be an excellent opportunity to serve time and work toward an early release. But just a few minutes inside and Danny realizes that this opportunity comes at a steep price and with rules that could make his remaining time in prison unbearable.
Renee is tenuously managing her separation from Danny but when she receives a phone call threatening his life, her fragile grasp on life is shattered. Obsessed with Danny and his safety, she makes a series of questionable decisions, which eventually leads her to the realization, that someone is not just after Danny, but her life is in danger as well. Teaming up with former sheriff and lawyer, Keith, Renee makes the decision to play the game placed before her in an effort to save Danny’s life. With moments of great insight and thoughtful contemplation, The Sanctuary is at times excellent, but at other times quite lacking.
Iyiyi…I’m just not sure what to think. The epilogue truly rescues this book from a rapid decline in the closing chapters. The majority of the story is engaging and easy enough to read, though it lacks depth. Danny keeps the characters from being totally flat, but that’s offset by Renee who comes across as an impulsive, whimpering, imbecile. There are moments of great, dead-on insight with mixes of questionable theology. I just don’t know what to think. Did I like it? Sorta. Would I like for Ted Dekker to once again write outstanding books that I can write glowing reviews for? Absolutely!
So, here goes. Let’s start with the not so good and close on the positives. First off Renee—she was intriguing for about ½ a chapter. Initially I found her quirky personality interesting and I thought I’d very much enjoy watching her develop. However, that quirkiness quickly turned to irritation when it became very clear her character was going to be, “I love Danny”, “Danny save me”, “What would Danny do?” That got tiring in a hurry. She had good potential, but seriously was stuck in Danny mode which actually lessened how much I liked Danny. Personally the hero worship was a bit unsettling. Perhaps the point was to make Danny her ‘Jesus’ figure, but I’m not comfortable making that allegory the way it was presented in this book.
Dekker’s always played a bit free and loose with plausibility, however, his recent books have taken such a dive off the deep end, I can no longer suspend disbelief and just go with it. It is one thing if Eylon turns the world upside-down in a fantasy novel, but it’s quite another when a character shoots off toes and expects to threaten their way out of trouble. That’s one of many examples in The Sanctuary where the reader is just expected to go with it. It’s possible to do that here and there, but when most major decisions seem to be guided by impulsive whim, it makes what should be a suspense/thriller novel a fantasy instead. I really wish Dekker would take some time and create plausible solutions rather than half-cocked, reactions from his characters.
While I had some serious issues with parts of the logic and ‘teaching’ in this book, I’m going to let that go for the most part. I appreciate Dekker’s desire to teach that love trumps all else, but the vow of nonviolence seems to supersede other valid biblical teachings. This issue is somewhat corrected towards the end, but that part of the storyline left me a bit unsettled.
The number one issue I have with The Sanctuary though, is the lack of depth all around. Some could call this a streamlined story, but I would call it stripped down. This book could easily have been rated 5 stars (excellent). Unfortunately, it’s like a layer of the story is missing. The basic idea is good and the allegorical elements are excellent. But they’re so barebones that the reading experience is disappointing. The characters are super cardboard thin and there is so little going on outside the main storyline, that the ending was predictable. I should have been shocked, but there was no reason to be when the story was so cut-and-dry that there was no other way the book could have ended.
Anyway, now on to the good stuff. Danny is very interesting. I didn’t catch the first part of his story told in The Priest’s Graveyard, but I still very much understood his character. Now I didn’t always agree with him, be it his violent past or his pacifist present. However, I thought he was interesting and I looked forward to his part in the story.
Additionally, the exchanges between the warden and Danny are excellent. There’s some great analogies going on and the dialogue is quite insightful. Dekker does a wonderful job with this part of the story. Though the actual climax is over the top dramatic (especially from Renee) and I didn’t completely agree with all of Danny’s thought process, the epilogue sets things right. There are some good questions brought up and this is the strongest part of the book.
A lot of times in writing a review I form a more solid opinion as I write, but that still hasn’t happened. I’m really not sure what to think. There are some definite good parts to this book, but equally not so good parts. So here’s my recommendation—if you think Dekker can do no wrong, you’ll love The Sanctuary. If you think Dekker has seen his better days, you probably won’t care for it too much. If you’re still hoping to find good in Dekker’s work, then give it a try since it’s a quick, easy to read story and might work for you. If you’re wanting to try Dekker for the first time, choose an older book—Thr3e, The Circle series (start with Black), Showdown, or The Heaven books. If you don’t like those, then Dekker’s work is probably not going to appeal to you anyway.