Hounded. Haunted. Hunted. She is the most important person in the world. She is The Key.
In the ancient Turkish city of Ruin, American journalist Liv Adamsen lies in an isolation ward staring at walls as blank as her memory.
She knows she entered the monumental Citadel at the heart of Ruin but can remember only darkness. Something strange is stirring within her, whispering that she is ‘the key’. But the key to what?
For the Ghost, a mercenary operating in the Syrian Desert, Liv could unlock one of mankind’s most potent secrets. For the brotherhood in the Citadel – now cursed by a terrible plague – hers may be the only way to ensure their survival. And for a powerful faction in Rome, she threatens the very future of the Catholic Church.
Hunted across continents and caught up in events that defy explanation, Liv turns to the only person she trusts – a charity worker named Gabriel Mann. Together their paths lead to a shocking discovery – one that will tear them apart and change the world forever…
One thing I should say before I begin talking about The Key is to quickly mention Sanctus, Simon’s first novel (and debut) in the Sancti trilogy published in 2011; The Key is the second of three books. Although this book can certainly be read as a standalone, to get the most out of the storyline and characters I urge you to read Sanctus first. It sets the scene, lays a solid foundation and you’ll approach The Key with a lot more depth and familiarity. Although this review will contain no spoilers as far as this second book goes, I may mention a few events that happen in Sanctus [Review] so please be aware of this fact.
If you are reading this book out of sequence then I can safely say that Simon Toyne does an excellent job in bringing new readers up to speed and filling in the gaps within the first few chapters. Done in an assured and polished way he doesn’t alienate readers of old and I never once felt it slowed down the discovery process. It’s a tricky balance between old and new but the author does this admirably.
There is no doubt that Sanctus has put the City of Ruin – Turkey – on the virtual world map and whether this was Simon’s intention when he began writing the book or not it’s incredible to think that the most popular search term to find my blog over the last year is – by a country mile – The City of Ruin! Sanctus – and Ruin – remains as popular today as it did last year and surely only the Beach Boys’ fictional Caribbean island of Kokomo – 1988 – could compete on the fictitious destinations stakes! Who knows maybe we could start a new travel agency taking in a twin destination of Ruin and Kokomo! I digress!
Gabriel Mann and Liv Adamsen are back for another frenzied adventure; The Key is set in the immediate aftermath of the explosive Sanctus. Liv Adamsen is, along with Kathryn – Gabriel’s mother – fighting for her life in hospital after being rescued from the Citadel. Gabriel, our protagonist is languishing in the local jail and is likewise fighting for survival uncertain who he can trust. There are people hell-bent on silencing the trio and they will stop at nothing to get the job done. Prepare yourself for another rollercoaster of a ride because The Key is a barnstormer of a book and a fitting follow up to Sanctus.
Although an incredibly entertaining read I didn’t think The Key had as much punch or impact as Sanctus only in so much as I missed not discovering the hidden caves in the Citadel for the first time! Yes I know I’m being incredibly selfish! Having said that we do get to experience a few new locations in the fortified Citadel so there is a little more discovery to be found and the atmospheric conditions are as good if not better than our first visit last year. The author certainly knows how to massage the senses and transport the reader into a damp and sacred fortress.
The narrative is taut and flows effortlessly from beginning to end, although an often overused phrase, I simply couldn’t put the book down. There aren’t many books you can read 40 pages in an hour while working flat out on a cross trainer but The Key is definitely one of them, I simply lost myself in the story. Eager to find out what happened following Sanctus I gorged my way through the opening chapters as the author moves from one location to another, re-introducing characters from the past and introducing us to ones for the future, I couldn’t get enough.
Short chapters ensure the rapid development of an incredibly accomplished and adroit storyline and as we move from one location to another – from the harsh and unforgiving deserts in Iraq to burnt out apartments in New Jersey – the characters come to life with a colour and intelligence I’ve come to expect from the author despite this being only his second novel.
Talking of characters, I don’t think there was one I didn’t like or one I found superfluous to the plot in The Key I usually manage to find one or two but, good or evil, they all had something that kept me interested. Gabriel is a brilliant character but Liv who is integral to the storyline came into her own this time around and shares top billing with Gabriel as they both attempt to make sense of the missing Sacrament.
Toyne weaves a wonderfully complex tale and just as he did in Sanctus I wanted to read more about the issues, the myths and locations that arise in this book. I’d love to talk about them and I may do so in a separate post following publication – conscious of spoilers – there were certain aspects to the storyline that I found compelling and hard to relinquish. Blending fact and fiction Toyne has done a remarkable job once again.
Full of twists, turns and intelligent subplots The Key has more than enough shocks – one I never saw coming – to entertain and satisfy the most ardent of fans. A brilliant addition to the Sancti Trilogy, the City of Ruin is brought to life yet again with a gripping, taut and creative thriller.
440 Pages · ISBN-10: 0007391595 · ISBN-13: 978-0007391592