Monday, October 19, 2009

The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary by Raymond Khoury
hardcover, 432 pages
Penguin, August 2007
ISBN-13: 9781615538553

From Booklist:
Here is one of those novels that spans centuries, interweaves stories from past and present, and involves a brave hero trying to uncover the truth behind an ancient conspiracy that unnamed individuals will kill to protect....When archaeology professor Evelyn Bishop is kidnapped, her daughter, Mia, vows to find her and to find the secret behind the artifacts that apparently led to Evelyn's abduction. Her odyssey takes her into unexpected corners of history, quickly putting her own life at risk. The action takes place mostly in Iraq but also journeys to eighteenth-century Italy and present-day Lebanon. The large cast of characters includes plenty of villainous types, including "the hakeem," a doctor whose grisly medical experiments seem linked to a centuries-old mystery. There are dozens of ways this novel could have collapsed under its own narrative weight, but Khoury makes the conspiracy feel utterly believable and imbues his characters with infectious passion for finding the truth. A surefire hit with fans of conspiracy-based historical thrillers. David Pitt

My Thoughts:
The Sanctuary started out strong, with a secret book being sought and a tale of a lab of horrors, and then it seemed to lose it's appeal. The characterizations and plot were lacking and felt formulaic. Twists in the story felt very contrived. Part of my disappointment with the book is probably due to my expectations. I didn't use the synopsis from The Sanctuary's cover because the description really makes it sound much more exciting and terrifying than the book actually is in reality. Not that it's bad, but it does slow down in the middle and wasn't keeping my interest. I'll admit I've been busy, but even then an exciting book would be able to hold my attention. I kept finding my thoughts wandering and I'd jump up to do something while reading The Sanctuary. If you run across it and need something to read don't pass it up as not worth your time, but be aware that it is not the best of the best. Recommended

Naples - November 1749
The scrape was hardly there, but it still woke him up. It wasn't really loud enough to rouse anyone from a deep sleep, but then, he hadn't slept well for years. opening

"....If what I suspect you know is true, we can be emperors. Don't you understand? People will sell their very souls for this."
The false marquis didn't doubt it for a second. "That's what I'm afraid of." pg. 5

He had done his best, tried his hardest, to discover what the missing pages of the codex had contained and wrest the ancient book's lost secrets. pg. 7

Baghdad - April 2003
The man in the headdress didn't even know his name. He only referred to him as the hakeem.
The doctor. pg. 12

Zabqine, Southern Lebanon - October 2006
She brought the photograph up closer, studying it intently, her fingers brushing over it in a futile attempt to make it clearer, her mind trying to swim through the deluge of memories that the image had triggered: it showed an ancient codex, sitting innocently between two other old books. Its tooled-leather cover was extended out. A distinctive feature of medieval Islamic books, it was normally tucked in under the front cover when the book was closed, used as a bookmark as well as to preserve and protect the pages.
Taken at face value, there was nothing remarkable about the old book, except for the symbol tooled into it's cover: the ringlike, circular motif of a snake feeding on its own tail. pg. 23

....A large, circular carving of a snake eating its own tail had been tooled into the main wall of the chamber.
The Ouroboros.
It was one of the oldest mystical symbols in the world.... The self-devouring serpent was a powerful archetype that represented different things to different peoples - a positive symbol for some, a portent of evil for others. pg. 32


Donna said...

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Re: The Sanctuary - Just this weekend I asked my local bookstore (not mine) to put this one aside for me (as well as another by the same author). I thought it sounded really good from the blurb on the back. I'm going to take a better look at it before I buy it now. Great review!

Lori L said...

Long time visitor, rare commenter to your blog, Myckyee!
The blurb makes The Sanctuary sound much better than it was - at least for me.