August 24, 2018

Joshua Winning: "Sentinel" (Series Review)

Title: Book 1: Sentinel
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
         Book 2: Ruins             
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
         Book 2.5: Witchpin (novella)
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
         Book 3: Splinter
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Sentinel Trilogy
Author: Joshua Winning [Site | Goodreads Sentinel Trilogy site]
Genres: Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2014-2015-2018
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: On the whole, a fast-paced, high-stakes adventure, with a strong ensemble cast and plenty of heart.
Cons: Slow start, tapping into your typical orphan-to-chosen-one trope. Book 1 also has a strangely quaint atmosphere.
WARNING! Contains many elements of horror and gore, plus nightmarish monsters.
Will appeal to: Those who like apocalyptic scenarios (in the truest sense), everyday heroes, surprises...and cats. Those who like seeing characters come of age under exceptional circumstances.

Blurb: Book 1: Sentinel. 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 suspicious train crash, the teenager is drawn into a desperate struggle against malevolent powers. Book 2: Ruins. In his desperate search for answers about the Sentinels, fifteen-year-old Nicholas Hallow is tipped into a fresh nightmare of terrifying monsters - and even more sinister humans. As Nicholas is challenged to become a Sentinel, he must track down a mysterious girl with the help of a grumpy cat. Meanwhile, an uprising of evil threatens to destroy the Sentinels and send the world spiralling into chaos. Book 2.5: Witchpin. 1589. A sickness steals through the village of Orville. Young women are dying. After losing her mother to the blight, Jessica Bell is recruited by the cantankerous Miss Isabel Hallow, who believes a cure can be found. But when witch hunter Matthew Bone arrives in the village, Jessica's investigation is disrupted with chilling consequences. Book 3: Splinter. The world is falling apart around Nicholas Hallow. Amid rumours that the Dark Prophets have returned, a deathly gloom pollutes England, unleashing a savage hoard of nightmare creatures. Fighting the tide of evil, Nicholas returns home to Cambridge, where an old ally helps him seek out the mysterious Skurkwife, who could help Nicholas stop Malika and the Prophets for good. But with Jessica's sanity slipping, and Isabel suspicious of her shadowy past, it's a battle that could cost the Sentinels everything. (Goodreads & Amazon excerpts)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I was offered a review copy by the author, having previously reviewed another one of his books (Vicious Rumer). We also follow each other on Twitter. This didn't influence my opinion on the series.


Straight-up fantasy books are not my thing, but I'm drawn to urban fantasy from time to time, and I do enjoy my Supernatural 😊. That's why I decided to take a chance on this series. I won't lie - Book 1 left me a bit lukewarm. I understand that world-building is necessary and takes time, plus we see most events through Nicholas' eyes, while on the one hand he discovers a new, terrifying world, and on the other is smothered in secrets for his own protection (ha! the old excuse). But my main problem with Sentinel was that its atmosphere is oddly dated, and I couldn't help but feeling like I was reading a historical novel. Of course, old England plays a huge part in the series, with settings like Cambridge or Bury St. Edmunds, and it was indeed nice to be able to visit a world that doesn't come up often in YA - but I'm talking about something deeper here, that to me prevented the series to fully spread its wings. Not to mention, there were a few tropes in Book 1 that sounded too typical - recently orphaned and clueless kid destined to save the world, old mentor, secret room, you name it. Luckily, once I started Book 2, I got sucked up into the story: the author seems to find his feet in Ruins, (not only because most of the world-building and the secrets are out of the way), and Splinter is a poignant, strong finale - while the Witchpin novella, set in a distant past but tied to the events recounted in the trilogy, is a welcomed glimpse into a different era and the origins of a certain pivotal character. [...]


Though Nicholas is the key to saving the world from the apocalypse, Sentinel is pretty much an ensemble cast series, with both teens and adults getting lots of screen time and distinctive voices/stories. Also, not everyone has powers, but those who don't are still integral to the story and never get a back seat, even when the battle rages and the stakes are impossibly high. Not everyone is a saint, either, and not everyone gets along smoothly, which adds depth and plausibility to the story, even while we're witnessing demons taking over the world and magic trying to save it. Also, can you believe there are two girls and two boys in this series and NO LOVE TRIANGLE? For the briefest moment I thought the girls could be pitted against each other for Nicholas' affection, but I needn't be afraid - the author took a surprise route in that respect, though one so much more realistic than your mandatory love geometry. The romance was done well, too - though I cringed when a certain character kissed another one who had just killed and bitten into a sheep under a demon's influence...but eh, I suppose that's as good a way to shock someone back into their senses as any 😂.


More things that I appreciated:
  • there's a female chosen one as well - though Nicholas is the ultimate world savior - who's got a cool and potentially devastating physical power, whereas he gets the vision/emotion gift (which reverses a classic trope);
  • there's a cool (if grumpy) lady with, let's say, quite the past, who finds herself into a hilarious predicament for the whole of Book 2, but ultimately makes for a magnificent character even when she is...not herself;
  • lots of surprises!
  • speaking of which, there's an ending that I didn't see coming...twice.
To be honest, I can't help pointing out that I spotted a handful of typos through the whole trilogy - like "bare" for "bear" and "tail" for "tale". But their number was really small, and they didn't prevent me from enjoying the story.
On the whole, reading the Sentinel series was like sitting through a whole Supernatural season's worth of monsters and surprises, only with more diversity. And if I managed to get you even remotely interested in it, I strongly recommend you read this post, where Winning recounts writing a very early draft of what would become this series when he was fifteen 😮 (a draft complete with cool hand-made illustrations!).

For my review of Joshua Winning's book "Vicious Rumer" click here.

For more Supernatural books click here.

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