First things first: if you’re not a fan of high-ish fantasy with names like Kleef, Shadovar and Yder, this probably isn’t the book for you. However, for those who are looking for a bracing, quick fantasy read with some intrigue, plenty of action and a little bit of romance, The Sentinel is the book for you. 5th of the 6-part Sundering series, The Sentinel is set in the famous Dungeons and Dragons world.
I’ll preface this review by saying that all I know of D&D, I’ve learned from TV, so I’m definitely not an expert in the subject. That said, you don’t have to be to enjoy and understand this book, although I imagine it’d help. In fact, you don’t even need to read the other books in the series (although again, I imagine it’d help).
The Sentinel is Kleef Kenric, a paladin and a Watchman of Marsember. After defending Joelle and Malik, who are running away from the shadowy fiends known as the Shadovar, Kleef finds himself drawn into an adventure that concerns a powerful artifact and squabbles between gods. The quest they undertake will help prevent the forces of evil from taking over the realm. Accompanying them is Arietta, a noblewoman with a taste for adventure. Story-wise, The Sentinel is a great read – straightforward passages are embellished with just enough information to be engaging. In order to catch all readers up with the information necessary. Again, those who are familiar with the D&D universe will no doubt find it easier to keep up – there are so many strange names to remember that they can often blend together.
Characters are really what shine through in this book – Arietta Seasilver as a devout, wealthy but not spoiled noblewoman is intriguing, especially given her backstory of sneaking out to perform at taverns, while Joelle is a charming heartwarder and master thief. What’s especially exciting is their relationship – it’s nice to see that such an old franchise doesn’t shy away from less conservative relationships (although D&D has never exactly been mainstream). Kleef is a surprisingly interesting character (paladins can often be somewhat boring due to their goodness), while Malik is a love-to-hate kind of character. The greatest criticism I have about the characters is just that they are underdeveloped – more sketches than fully fleshed out characters – which is a shame because they are each so engaging in their own way.
On the subject of sketches, I found that while the story was exciting enough, the writing was somewhat patchy, moving from one chapter to another with such jumps that I worry that I’ve missed several pages of explanation. Towards the end, the characters also didn’t behave the way you’d expect, which was less surprising than it was confusing.
Despite all that, The Sentinel is a good read, with some great moments and some excellent character development and relationships. In fact, my biggest problem is that I’m curious to find out what happens to the characters after the end of the book!
The Sentinel is out April 1, 2014, from Wizards of the Coast. For more information, check out the Dungeons and Dragon site.