Novel Review: Wizards of the Coast – The Sentinel (The Sundering, Book IV)


The Sentinel
The Sentinel is an epic fantasy novel in The Sunder series, written by Troy Denning and published by Wizards of the Coast.
By Cape Rust

Learn more about The Sentinel here
Purchase The Sentinel: The Sundering, Book V
Find other Wizards of the Coast products here

A watchman in a corrupt city that is about to be overrun, notices a strange couple, a beautiful redhead with a weasel of a man following her. They are running from someone… it turns out that someone is a Shadowvar, one of the beings that is getting ready to overrun the city of Marsember. The watchman Kleef is a follower of the dead god Helm just as his father was before he was killed. Kleef intervenes to find that the odd couple that he spotted isn’t just being followed by one Shadowvar, but scores of them. Kleef jumps into action and quickly learns that he might have bitten off more than he can chew. Part of their daring delaying action is witnessed by Lady Arietta who decides to directly and indirectly intervene, much to consternation of her father, mother and their retainers. Due to her intervention and a series of unfortunate events, Lady Arietta’s father is killed and the family’s boat with all of their wealth and her mother have been commandeered by the remaining Shadowvar who were chasing them in the first place. Now Lady Arietta, Kleef and the mysterious couple Joelle and Malik must rescue Lady Arietta’s mother and deliver a powerful artifact to an almost inaccessible location surrounded by hostile territory.

On this surface this book is full of exactly what you would expect it to be, but Denning actually put many more subtle sub-plots into this, that while a little too social issues minded for me, bear mentioning. This is one of those stories where to me the characters really were greater than the story that they were in. In the sundering series, people getting chosen by gods to perform tasks is not uncommon, in fact it is so common that it has almost become the norm, rather than an epic quest. Normally you would think that would ruin a storyline, but this all star lineup of authors seems to have figured out individually how to make things still feel exciting.

As the story progresses we learn that Kleef the Watchman and follower of the dead god Helm posses a sword called Watcher that is much more powerful than he ever suspected. This sword and many of the feats he is able to pull off during the story make it apparent not only to the reader but to his fellow travelers that he is one of the chosen of Helm. This type of revelation isn’t a big surprise in the Sundering series, actually it is kind of commonplace. As Kleef embraces his status as a chosen, he learns at a most critical juncture that his faith isn’t as pure as he thought and that crisis of faith and how he deals with it makes him more than just your average fighter.

Joelle, the aforementioned redhead, is actually a chosen of the goddess of love, Sune. Joelle fascinated me, because like love, she was complex and unexplainable. She was not afraid to use her powers to manipulate those around her. She was mercurial almost to the point of being bi-polar and in the end followed her heart. As fascinated by Joelle as I was, she was the source of one of those social issues I eluded to earlier in this review. I will let you read the book to find out just what that issue was but I will say that while it has been done way too much in the last few years, Denning handled it really well and didn’t come off as preachy or holier-than-thou. I felt like this issue was included to complicate the entire situation and was a intriguing but interesting facet of a sub plot rather than a soapbox derby.

Lady Arietta kind of pissed me off. She thought she was a chosen, found out she wasn’t, then found out that she really was. Her crisis of faith seemed much less genuine than Kleefs. I saw where Denning was going with it, but it felt forced and her history of masquerading as a common bard made things worse. Arietta believed she was the chosen of the goddess of nobility and rulership and while noble she cavorted about Marsember as a common bard, yet expressed snooty thoughts typical of nobles at times during this story. His view of nobility roles and how she viewed it was erratic and contradictory in very strange and disjointed ways.

Malik, the previously identified as “a weasel of a man” Malik, claims to follow the long dead god of death, there are actually a few times where Denning or the character Malik slipped and revealed who he was actually working for, before the big reveal. For many readers who have spent time in the Realms, you will see it right away. I wanted to squash Malik into a little smudge, like the pest that he is, but in retrospect he was actually the most “honest” character in the book. He followed his faith and didn’t waiver from it. He stayed true to his character and didn’t apologize about who he was or what he did.

There are many other interesting characters in this story but I feel like it is important for you to get to know the main ones. As far as the plot goes, there are many things happening in this book. The good news is that the plot line is on rails and for someone reading this book for roleplaying material, it would make an awesome adventure. For people reading it just for entertainment value, I can see where they might feel like “on rails” is a bad thing, but as someone reading this novel for both aspects I was pretty happy. The character intrigue should be noted for those who grow tired of the typical hack and slash dungeon crawls. The verity of environments that Denning incorporated into the action was interesting and diverse. There was some great combat and it was good to see how Denning believed being the chosen of a god or goddess would feel, or not feel. I can’t wait to see how the legendary Ed Greenwood finishes this series out.

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