"Sentinel" Book Review
Written by Joshua Winning
2014, 264 pages, Fiction
Released on 19th May 2014
I have to take my hat off to writers who enter the young-adult market with a book about a teenage boy with supernatural powers. When I first started on Joshua Winning's Sentinel, I was struck by how bold he was to pen this book featuring an orphaned child who discovers he is part of a gifted family lineage, gets picked up on a Victorian double-decker bus and has to battle a supernatural foe while uncovering the truth about his parents. While it might sound like a wholesale lifting of the basic principles behind the Harry Potter story, it's not. Winning has taken an entirely different fork in the road and produced a story that draws on witchcraft, demonology and the angst of a young boy in a newly orphaned state to create something entirely unique.
Nicholas Harrow is 15 years old and has just lost both parents in a train crash. While dealing with the grief of his loss, his world starts to unravel as he's taken under the wing of a longtime family friend, Sam. Over the time he spends with Sam, Nicholas discovers his family's secret; they are part of a secret order known as The Sentinels, tasked with protecting the world from demons and supernatural beasts.
On the face of it, the story isn't anything new. These days, everyone in fiction is discovering they have special powers or a deep family curse that runs back generations and makes them somehow special. But Winning's eminently readable style, coupled with some strong characters and a pace that nicely rounds out the book make this a cut above the vast majority of the young-adult fiction market that tries the same approach.
The first book in the Sentinel Trilogy, this piece spends its initial act setting up the backgrounds of its principle cast. While this can be a little slow moving at times, it does get the lore established, which should enable subsequent entries to the series to drop straight into the action. As the backstory starts to subside and the main antagonists come to the fore, the pace picks up and doesn't subside until the final page. The tone is incredibly dark, yet the subject matter is never pushed too far, so that its intended young-adult audience can enjoy it without being subjected to true nastiness.
It takes a lot to get me to read a book, mainly due to time constraints. If it doesn't grab my attention and hold it, then I'll more often than not just give up on it and leave it unfinished. While it did take me some time to get through Sentinel, it gripped me and left me wanting to return. And when that final page turned, I felt eager for the next installment. That's all you need to know.