Today I am delighted to present a review for Joshua Winning’s YA fantasy Sentinel. The first instalment in a trilogy, I was immediately sucked and mesmerized by a world that so closely parallels our own. This is one of those books that I started and couldn’t stop until it was finished – so if you love YA, a little paranormal fantasy, a brilliant imagination this one might just be for you!
Author: Joshua Winning
Publisher: Peridot Press
Publication Date: May 19th, 2014
Genre: Fiction, YA Fiction, Fantasy
Themes: Survival, Family, Paranormal
My Rating: 4/ 5
“What is a Sentinel? A guard. A detective. A killer…”
They are the world’s best-kept secret – an underground society whose eternal cause is to protect the world against the dark creatures and evil forces that inhabit the night.
Now Sentinels are being targeted, murdered and turned as the fury of an ancient evil is unleashed once more. And when 15-year-old Nicholas Hallow’s parents are killed in a train crash, the teenager is drawn into a desperate struggle against malevolent powers.
Sentinel is the first book in the Sentinel Trilogy – a world of unconventional heroes, monsters, murder and magic.
I really, really enjoyed this book. A lot of times I find it hard to get into YA fantasy as it either comes across as childish or it there is simply too much backstory to get into. But, Sentinel really finds the goldilocks medium of just enough of everything to keep it approachable, moving along, and just enough enough detail for everything to make sense while leaving just enough details out to keep you guessing.
I ended up loving Nicholas as a character, as he was mature enough to handle all of the obstacles thrown at him in a reasonable (read no overly stroppy) manner, yet he will filled with just enough angst and self pity to remain relatable despite the more fantastical elements of this book. I would, however, have liked to know a little bit more about his parents, what sentinels really do, and what happened to Sam’s wife. But, seeing as there are two more books to comes and Winning’s slow release style of handing out details I have no doubt that the answers to these questions will surface in the books to come.
With that being said though, Sam was by far my favourite supporting character. Who doesn’t love a plucky old man who can surprise the heck out of you by holding his own… or whipping a rifle out at random moments? It was refreshing to see that his sentimentality never waned despite the gravity of the situations presented, and that he always remained loving and compassionate to those in his care. I truly appreciated that he never stopped believing that he could save his friends, and hope that this theme persists into books two and three.
As a librarian, one of the things that really drew me in is the fact that neither Sentinel or Ruins are particularly long, with both books sitting around 300 pages give or take a few. It’s long enough to tell a full story, but no so long that the girth of the book scares potential readers away. As someone who rarely circulates the bound collection of Tolkien’s work as a single volume, but rushes around circulating the individual instalments of LOTR in quick succession, I know just how important the intimidation factor on the shelf can be for YA readers.
But what I loved the most about this book was the inclusion of History and facts too often considered to be above a teen audience. My heart literally went pitter-patter at the mention of the Grimm brothers and their dictionary, as well as when Perrault’s fairy tales were brought into the fray. The only things missing from those conversations were the Grimm’s Laws for linguistics and the fact that Perrault’s recorded fairy tales were, in fact, edited amalgamations of tales that had been told orally for centuries and were only codified through his publications.
I was left with a good number of questions though, such as how does the Sentinel organization work, what purpose do the ravens have, and who are the Trinity? I also need to know more about Jessica and Isabella as their characters fascinate me, but I am happy with feeling like their mystery was part of the point. Despite a few lurking questions, there wasn’t enough to turn me off the books or even leave me feeling frustrated. Instead, they left me wanting more and eager to dive into the second book – Ruins.
Ultimately, I really liked this book! It’s well written, engaging, and vastly different from the majority of YA lit currently on offer. It has hints of Rowling, Clare, and even a Whedon but still clearly stands on it’s own. Sentinel is a promising start to what is sure to be an outstanding trilogy – it’s action packed, evenly paced, and allows just enough room for character development and battling the forces of evil.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I can’t wait to dive into Ruins, or for the third instalment to come out this summer. Take a gamble on this one, lovers of YA, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Many thanks to Joshua Winning for providing paperback copies of both Sentinel and Ruins in exchange for an honest review.