I received a copy of this book on NetGalley from the publisher.
The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.
Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .
I heard about this book when I attended Gollancz’s blogger evening a few weeks ago, and Vic James came to speak to us. She spoke at length about her research trips, and the work that she put into writing this creepy, small-town story which echoes the hysteria which can grip any town, and seamlessly interweaves into that the rich magical lore which she has developed for her universe. There’s lots of fascinating stuff here, not least the relationship between the four women who make up Sarah’s coven, and how those bonds can fracture and break under stress. The addition of outsider Maggie, a detective investigating the possibility of foul play in Daniel’s death, adds a dimension of distance to the story (although I’m pretty sceptical of the likelihood of the coincidences in the story being in any way likely) which gives extra depth to how the town of Sanctuary interacts.
I was loving this book almost the whole way through. I devoured it, and was really interested to read the twists and turns that plagued the investigation. But then, really surprisingly, it all wrapped up incredibly quickly in the last chapter. We were in the middle of serious action, with fire and flames and witchcraft and revelations… but then we cut to an epilogue-type chapter, and we were all done.
There was just… nothing. No explanation of what happened between then and now, how the characters’ dilemmas resolved, how the remaining characters moved on… And I was left really disappointed. This is a self-contained story, and 99% of it is very good, albeit a little bit slow-paced. But the final 1% is a huge skip which leaves the reader to imagine a lot of really interesting things. And I found this really jarring and disappointing. I haven’t read anything else by Vic James (although I do own a copy of Gilded Cage) and I hope this isn’t how all of her books go, because I don’t think I could cope with that. It’s like walking up a flight of steps and thinking there’s one more stair than there actually is. That’s the kind of free-falling jarring response the final chapters of this book gave me. Very strange editorial and authorial choice, and basically the only reason why this isn’t a much more highly-rated book.