The Sentinel is part five of The Sundering, which, of course, is a six part series following the separation of the worlds Abeir and Toril. While there are non-divine events transpiring around the world, most everything seems to be tied to the gods battling each other for worldwide supremacy. Thus, the Great Rain, falling earthmotes, magical fluctuations, and changes to the continents’ surfaces somehow point back to some god or goddess attempting to expand their power spheres. These divine beings do not dirty their hands doing all these things on the mortal sphere, however, but exert their will through certain mortals called “Chosen”, who in return for divine power allow their godly mentors to pull their strings. And in The Sentinel, Troy Denning presents the quest of four such “Chosen.”
The story erupts out of the gate, immediately thrusting a reader into the action, as watchman Kleef (sworn to Helm, god of duty) finds himself caught up in the evacuation of the Cormyr city of Marsember as the Shadovar (shadow-infused beings from Netheril) advance upon it. However, quickly, our brave watchmen finds himself defending two strangers from shadovar attack; these strangers being Joelle (Chosen of Sune, goddess of love) and Malik (Chosen of Cyric, god of strife and lies), who later are revealed to have stolen the Eye of Gruumsh (relic of the Orc god) and are on a quest from Sune to deliver this token to the underground temple of an Earth Primordial. (The convoluted theory being that by doing this they will foil yet another plot by Shar, goddess of night and oblivion, to take over the world of Toril.) Naturally, the orcs are also after Joelle and Malik, and before too long, Kleef is drawn into this quest as is a young noble woman of Marsember named Lady Arietta (a presumed Chosen of Siamorphe, goddess of nobility and rulership), who initially has personal reasons for wanting to help.
From this intriguing beginning, the story bogs down into a cookie cutter quest adventure that soon bores more than it inspires. Sure, there are fights galore here, but even those fixture of great Forgotten Realms tales seem somewhat bland and lifeless. The simple fact is the flaws in The Sentinel overshadowed its strengths, which is disappointing but nonetheless true. Let me explain.
This tale is driven by four main characters, who are immensely different from one another. This usually means lots of group friction and interesting interactions, which allows the author to delve into the character’s background, personal beliefs and outlook on life and gradually evolve the individuals through personal growth. Here, however, our four companions’ never progress past the point of mimicking their Chosen god or goddess’ personality. Kleef is the dutiful follower of a dead god, always doing the “honorable” thing; Arietta is the noblewoman mimicking the nobility of her patron goddess and never growing beyond being confused about her role in the world; Joelle constantly is using her goddess given powers to charm everyone into a ridiculous caricature of “love”; and Malik is a consummate liar and creator of discord, just like his patron god. Each of these four constantly make the same decisions throughout the story; decisions that quickly become repetitive and boring.
Even with the four heroes being somewhat uninspiring, the story might have been livened up by a good villain or two, but unfortunately, The Sentinel is devoid of those. There is no ominous Nazghul or even a fearsome group of insidious beings like the drow of R.A. Salvatore’s Companions novels. Instead, Mr. Denning has a few cookie cutter enemies, who don’t really bring fear or interest, for that matter.
Lastly, unlike other novels in this series, The Sentinel really suffered from not delving into the details of what the hell is actually happening in the Sundering. Sure, all the books in the series have used the event as a backdrop to the individual tales, but in the other novels, the Sundering was just a peripheral issue to the actual story. Here, the whole quest of Joelle, Malik, Kleef, and Arietta’s quest is to help their gods keep Shar from somehow taking over the world, but the how, why, and what might happen if they fail is so vaguely outlined that a reader wonders why they should even care at all whether the foursome succeeds or fails.
All in all, The Sentinel is a decent adventure novel that is mildly enjoyable. If you are a huge Forgotten Realms fan, it is definitely good enough to waste a few hours, enjoying the setting and atmosphere. If you are not a huge fan of the Forgotten Realms setting, however, then this one might be something that you would want to skip.
I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank both of them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.
CHECK OUT MY REVIEWS OF THE SUNDERING SERIES
THE COMPANIONS (THE SUNDERING #1)
THE GODBORN (THE SUNDERING #2)
THE ADVERSARY (THE SUNDERING #3)
THE REAVER (THE SUNDERING #4)
THE HERALD (THE SUNDERING #6)