Sentinel by Joshua Winning
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.
I’m sure that everyone has had daydreams of living a different life; of waking up one morning and discovering your regular life is changed so dramatically that everything is new and exciting. It’s great to dream but for Nicholas Hallow the dream becomes a nightmare when a family tragedy unlocks a new life that he could never have expected.
The Sentinels are the de-facto guardians of humanity. This secret society are the chosen few, just slightly out of step with normal existence. They suffer and fight for us so that we can live on in blissful ignorance. I’ve always liked that idea, the premise that groups like this could exist side by side with the rest of us, hidden in plain sight.
Nicholas is an engaging lead, and it was easy to empathise with him as he is dragged through the emotional wringer. I have to admit though, I was more interested in another couple of characters. First there is Sam Wilkins. Sam is an old family friend who becomes Nicholas’ guardian and, perhaps more importantly, his mentor. He remains suitably mysterious throughout, but you get the sense that Sam has seen some things in his time and still remains a force to be reckoned with. Sam’s character reads almost like an old school private detective, he even favours a fedora, and I just bet he has some stories that would make your hair stand on end. The other character is Isabel. Nicholas and Isabel have an interesting relationship. Let’s put it this way, they don’t always see eye to eye. Isabel is wonderfully snarky and looks down on everything that Nicholas does. Needless to say I loved her immediately.
The forces that the Sentinels face are an entirely evil bunch. Demons and their followers don’t take prisoners, they exist only to destroy or to corrupt. It quickly becomes obvious that the Sentinels aren’t just in a fight for their lives, but for everyones. I rather like the dark nature of these villains. Nicholas is forced to grow up quickly when he realises exactly what is at stake in his new life. This is end-of-the-world type stuff we are talking about here, people. There are no second chances when facing off against demons; it is kill or be killed. The tools of the Dark Prophets are violent, utterly driven, and have no problem doing whatever it takes to get the job done.
My only criticism, and it is a relatively minor one, is that there could have been a little bit more exposition in some areas. The author successfully piqued my interested about the Sentinels and how their organisation works. but just a little bit more detail would have made all the difference. For example, there is a character called Esus who appears to hold a very special place in society. He pops up from time to time, but could be the posterboy for the word enigmatic. I don’t mind a bit of mystery, Sam being the perfect example, but Esus was just a little to inscrutable for my liking. Hopefully there will be a bit more detail in future novels.
That quibble aside, this first book in the Sentinel trilogy does do a pretty solid job of setting up this new series. Nicholas is initially oblivious of his origins, and this gives Winning the opportunity to reveal the rules as Nicholas learns them himself. I don’t think you could hope for a more entertaining introduction into the world of the Sentinels. If other teens with a destiny have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t really can’t go far wrong with fiction like this. Sometimes darkly horrific, but always exciting. This is great deal of fun. Put it this way, if you enjoy danger, demons and more secrets than you can shake a big stick at, then Sentinel is the book for you. I wish there had been more books like this around when I was a teen. I would have devoured them all, one after another.
Sentinel is published by Peridot Press and available now. The sequel to Sentinel, Ruins, has just been released which is handy as I’ll be reading that next.