Without doubt, Sanctus was my favourite thriller of 2011 – clever, imaginative and unusual, with an original twist in its religious mystery, all played out by an intriguing set of characters, and well-written to boot. No wonder then that I was thrilled to bits to win a copy of its sequel, The Key, which is also the second in a trilogy.
It is not easy to review a sequel without giving away elements of the first novel which should remain perfectly unknown, lying in wait for their unsuspecting reader, and so I shall be careful and brief. I would urge you to read Sanctus, if you haven’t already. My non-spoilery review of that novel is here.
One of the successes of Sanctus was its setting – the Turkish city of Ruin, created by Simon Toyne for his novels but described so vividly that you want to book a trip there. The ancient city, older than any, is dominated by the Citadel, carved into a mountain and housing monks, the Sancti, who never leave its caverns, tunnels and secret chambers and libraries. The mystery that the Citadel contains was the subject of the first novel and in The Key we learn more about its meaning and the people who are driven to pursue it. Some are familiar, some are new, but the journey is full of surprises and terrible dangers.
As you’d expect after reading Sanctus, the mysteries of the trilogy may involve the Church but they go far deeper back into time than that and they have a much greater significance for mankind. This foreboding and menace works especially well because of Ruin – it’s both familiar and unfamiliar and it pulls people to it, even though the city’s walls are locked each night to keep everyone out.
The Key combines action and mystery perfectly and it is a pleasure to get to know a little bit more about Gabriel, Liv and other characters from the first novel. Sanctus was a fantastic debut but The Key benefits from being an accomplished and confident second novel. The fact that it continues an exciting story, which manages to include emotion between the thrills, and characters, both good and bad, that entertain and intrigue, doesn’t hurt a bit. And just like Sanctus, when The Key ends you’ll be longing for the next. If I read a thriller in 2012 I enjoy more, I will be most surprised.
The Key is out in April, I urge you to use the wait to read Sanctus.