Author: Joshua Winning
Young Adult urban horror/fantasy set in and around Cambridge? Yes please!
The blurb on the back of Book One of the Sentinel Trilogy promises ‘unconventional heroes, monsters, murder and magic’, and the story doesn’t disappoint. Fifteen-year-old Nicholas Hallow’s world is turned upside-down when his parents are killed in a train crash. A letter from his father to an old friend sets out what should be done if anything were to happen to his parents, and Nicholas finds himself uprooted from his home and placed in the care of a godmother he knows nothing about. Chased by evil entities he doesn’t understand, and with his future decided by adults who refuse to explain the danger he faces, Nicholas attempts to find his own answers. Will he find the truth, or will the demons find him first?
Sentinel is a fun read. There are dramatic scenes that explode vividly from the page like sequences from a film, and quieter, more reflective sections that give the reader a chance to get to know Nicholas, and the people around him. The constant refusal of the adults to explain anything to Nicholas becomes more frustrating for him as the story progresses, and while this frustration is shared by the reader, it serves a chilling purpose at the end of the book. Nicholas is relatable as a grieving, powerless teenager, attempting to understand the secrets that define his life, but it is the supporting characters who bring colour and depth to the story. Sam, the elderly friend of the family, and Liberty, in particular, provide the book’s unconventional heroes, and the principle antagonist is absolutely delicious in her evil scheming.
The settings for the story are well drawn, and the scenes set in Cambridge are fun to read if you are familiar with the locations. The sequence at the Fitzwilliam Museum felt very close to home, and the descriptions of Midsummer Common provided a solid real-world anchor for Nicholas’s experiences. There are hat-tips to Narnia (I counted three), an interesting system of magic, symbols, and folklore, and a house that felt like a character in its own right.
Judging by the ending, things can only get more exciting in Book Two!
Have you read Sentinel? What did you think of the story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!
Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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