As is often the case in many novels, Sentinel’s strengths stem more from the author’s ability to spin new ideas than the tropes themselves. Dead parents, a young man finding out the world is different than he imagined, ancient dark forces gathering against secret defenders – we’ve all seen these before. However, Sentinel finds a way to still spin out these ideas but keep certain points fresh.
The foremost aspect is the lengths the book goes to show how a long peace has weakened humanity’s defenders. The problems created by complacency and the failings stemming from their apparent victory, and just what that meant for many of their members. The concept is far better explored than many other franchises with the same premise, and helped considerably by Joshua Winning’s obvious awareness of horror tropes.
Even when focusing upon teenage angst and personal life, there’s always a hint of classic Hammer or slasher horror in there, often blended with supernatural ideas. This element assists considerably in giving the book’s threats notable tension and some surprising weight to its conflicts. Even during the downtime, this offers a constant background presence and a thematic element which helps hold your attention. It also helps that the world building itself is remarkably well thought out and holds great potential.
The definite problems with this book stem from its use to set up the trilogy. Winning is trying to push his concept as hard as he can through the narrative even as it is built up, and leads to the book retaining an extraordinarily slow pace and very basic plot at times. It also doesn’t help that the central chapters in particular prove to be extraordinarily drawn out. This considerably assists world-building, but not so much character growth or maintaining a fast flowing plot to keep the reader’s attention. It proves to be especially harmful as the character’s actual personality his buried beneath layers of misery. Not the best of introductions for a new audience, and the supporting cast fails to make up for this shortcoming.
The actual character drama itself often is far too subdued and by the numbers. Often bland and with little in the way of real impact, when taken away from outlining the role of Sentinels or the threat, they often prove to be lifeless. They’re enough to keep the story going, but all too often seem like devices to continue the plot than characters caught up in events.
As Young Author novels go, Sentinel is average. It certainly has a few interesting ideas and strengths, but remains hamstrung by a good few failings. Give it a look if you like the idea, but keep your expectations grounded.
INFO: SENTINEL / WRITER: JOSHUA WINNING / PUBLISHER: PERIDOT PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW