The story opens with the TARDIS going through a part of space where they get pulled into a dark star which causes the TARDIS interior to slowly jump forward in time by about three seconds. This causes the Doctor and Benny to have to take the Jade Pagoda from Iceberg to the nearest inhabitable planet for about three weeks so the TARDIS can get through the dark star and they can continue on their journey. They end up landing in France during the Albigensian Crusade where they get wrapped up in the time period. The Doctor plays the detective for a murder while Benny falls in love with mercenary Guy de Carnac as they try to sneak heretics into the Roc which will be sanctuary. This plot would be the weakest aspect of the novel if it wasn’t for the fact that McIntee has done so much research to make the novel feel so real on every page and he wrote in an ending that just works like a Shakespearean tragedy.
McIntee also excels at writing the Doctor who just feels like he is the Doctor in this story. This time he has no master plan, no evil deity to destroy, just people that need helping out and he is going to be the one to do it. He is confident in Benny now that Ace is gone and nothing is there to drag them down and they’re allowed to be friends again. He also has become a happier person as he loves finally finding some excitement with the dark star being something he actually didn’t know about. He is also great at getting himself in with the higher ups much in the fashion of how the Second Doctor confused the jailor in The War Games by acting all important without actually having any authority over the situation. He would be the best part of the story if it wasn’t for Benny just being so well written. Here she wants to stop the Spanish Inquisition on supposed heretics as she believes in freedom of religion and will do anything in her power to make that happen. She ends up falling in love with Guy de Carnac in this story which McIntee paints beautifully. They don’t fall in love instantly, but let everything develop over the course of the story.
The supporting characters also feel very real for the time, especially Guzman who is a man aspiring to become the next Pope. He is the real villain of the story and McIntee is clearly having a blast writing for his character. I also have to make mention of Jeanne who isn’t very special until she is burned alive where we actually get to see the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition and the Church performed at this time. Hughes is another heretic who gets great development as he is a very rational one. The supporting character who steals the show however is Guy de Carnac. De Carnac is a man who has struggled with his faith after actually being with the Knights Templar who also have a presence in the story. He disagrees with what the Church does to the heretics who don’t agree with what they teach. Carnac is also a soldier as he has to take the heretics who are mainly farmers and make them an army which is a great portion of the novel.
Now I have to talk about that ending. It rivals The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve in how it comes out of nowhere and makes the story even better than it already was. Everything is solved, the TARDIS is back and the Doctor and Benny are ready to leave when they are ambushed by the Templars who kill everyone who was good in this story. The Doctor offers to take Guy with them, but he stays behind to fight the Templars off trying to get Benny to safety whom he loves. He dies which causes Benny to go into a depression as lead in to the next novel, Paul Cornell’s Human Nature.
To summarize, Sanctuary shows that the Virgin New Adventues are on the up and up after Warlock and Set Piece. David A. McIntee has some of his best prose here with characters that he actually is able to work with very well making the Doctor and Benny the best they have been in quite a while. Yes the plot is a bit weak which causes a few problems and I couldn’t remember some of the characters, but overall it is a great novel. 90/100