A Surprising, Satisfying Sequel: Fractured by Sarah Fine

A Surprising, Satisfying Sequel: Fractured by Sarah Fine

It was a reminder of what we’d lost—and also that my senior year was rapidly coming to a close. I’d barely noticed. Prom was in three weeks, and graduation was only a month after that. It was hard to believe that a few months ago, I’d assumed I’d be here with Nadia, enjoying all of this. Now that Nadia was gone, I had nothing to look forward to except the hope that I could prevent a bunch of evil spirits from overrunning Rhode Island.

Sarah Fine's Sanctum was a real surprise when I discovered it earlier this year. It had all the things I love about adult fantasy--grit, flawed characters, adventure, big consequences--in a compelling young adult package. Needless to say, I eagerly anticipated the sequel, Fractured.

[Tiny spoilers for Sanctum ahoy, though I've attempted to be as vague as possible.]

Fractured picks up shortly after Sanctum ended, which narrator Lela back home in Rhode Island. We find the power dynamics between she and love interest and Shadowland Guard Malachi shifted. She's the boss, with a crew of guardians under her command. They're battling the demon-like mazikin, as in Sanctum, but this time they're on Lela's home turf, and the few people she's allowed to become close to her are all in danger, making the stakes even higher than before.

Life as it was now: a weird intersection of normal and crazy, of life and beyond-life, afterlife, undead, whatever. I put my hand to my heart and felt it beating, remembered feeling Malachi’s pounding through his shirt as he kissed me. Were we alive? Were we here on borrowed time? Did we have a right to live or only to serve as Guards? Did we have a future, or were we headed back to the dark city when we were done? Did anything we did here, apart from eliminating the Mazikin, matter? Could we keep anything for ourselves?

Second books in a series are a tough thing. In a lot of ways, when a first book is good, the second book's role as the second act in a three-act series (as in the case of a trilogy) can feel more like a bridge to the conclusion rather than a gripping story. Fortunately, Fractured avoided this fate, and is--in many ways--a stronger book than the first.

Shifting the setting from the Shadowlands to modern-day Rhode Island was a bold move, since it radically altered the character dynamics, and it really paid off.

He’d spent the last several decades in a walled city of cement and steel and slime, where the only things that grew were the festering wishes of the dead, sorrowful people trapped there. Because it was always dusk or midnight, never day, nothing green or lush or real could grow. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Something had grown between us. I turned back to him and reached for his hand. I wasn’t used to this yet, this permission to touch. His skin was so warm. Real. Here. “Unbelievable,” I whispered.

In Sanctum, Malachi was the expert. He knew how to navigate the Shadowlands. Turning the tables and making Malachi the stranger in a strange land made this sequel far more interesting that your average urban fantasy follow up. It also, in many ways, gave Lela a space to prove herself in a manner that wasn't possible in Sanctum. 

And while the reader isn't treated to much Lela-Malachi page-time, the glimpses that we do receive reminded me how much I liked this challenging, complicated pairing in the first book. Which makes the introduction of another like-interest (I'm hesitant to call him a "love interest") into the mix strange, and yet, given what happens to Lela and the resulting anguish (intentional vagueness), both Lela and I needed her to have this new character to lean on. And, sweet, every boy Ian (the like-interest), stands in pointed contrast to Malachi--an apt metaphor for the tensions between Lela's two worlds.

I covered my eyes with the heels of my palms and pressed hard, trying to scrub his expression from my memory banks. Because here it was, that look I’d never wanted to see. The one that said he thought I was broken. And inside me, the echoing fear that I actually was. I should have been thankful he was so sensitive. I’m sure a lot of other guys would have ignored that whimper. But instead it pissed me off, because I didn’t want to have to deal with it. I wanted to be normal.

As I mentioned in my Sanctum review, the worlds Lela occupies (both the underworld and her "real" life) is full of consequences.

Lela's new life is complicated to say the least. Her responsibilities as a Guardian naturally conflict with her life in Rhode Island, her relationship with her foster mother and her growing romance with Malachi. Author Sarah Fine doesn't flinch from making it very clear that it will be a hard road if Lela is to fine some sort of happiness and normalcy. And she creates enough doubt that while I want Lela to be okay, I'm not sure that's a guarantee.

And I think that's why the longer I think about it, the more this is one of the stronger urban fantasy series running. Nothing feels certain, but that uncertainty is not contrived, it feels right for the characters and the world FIne's created. While the central story is resolved, the ending of Fractured left me wanting the third installment of this series as much as Sanctum did, since it set the stage for Big Things with Big Consequences to happen in the third (and final, I think) installment of Lela's story.

I looked down at myself and saw the truth. I was never meant to wear dresses. I was meant to wear fucking armor.

If you're looking for an action-packed, yet uniquely character-driven, series, you really can't go wrong with this series.

If you like rough-around-the-edges adult urban fantasy characters (think Cassie Alexander's Edie Spence or Chess from Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series), but in a YA package, Lela's your girl. 

Can you tell that I really love this series?

(FYI: The Kindle editions of both books in this series are currently $3.99--I'd get on that, if you want to try it out.)

Buy Fractured at Amazon | Book Depository | Powell's 
Add it on Goodreads
CEFS Review of Sanctum
FNL Character Rating: Tyra Collette

Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher.

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