What is a Sentinel? A guard. A detective. A killer…
They are the world’s best-kept secret – an underground society whose eternal cause is to protect the world against the dark creatures and evil forces that inhabit the night.
Now Sentinels are being targeted, murdered and turned as the fury of an ancient evil is unleashed once more. And when 15-year-old Nicholas Hallow’s parents are killed in a train crash, the teenager is drawn into a desperate struggle against malevolent powers.
Sentinel is the first book in the Sentinel Trilogy – a world of unconventional heroes, monsters, murder and magic.
“I wanted to write something weird, scary and complicated. There are monsters and magic, but the real drama comes from the characters. They’re what give Sentinel heart” – Joshua Winning
Tell us a little bit about Nicholas.
Nicholas hasn’t got a clue. He’s smart in some ways – I guess in sort of a bookish, ‘Google knowledge’ kind of way – but he’s not had to face the realities of the world yet. Those realities come crashing down on him in Sentinel’s first few chapters, and the rest of the book (and the trilogy) is about how he copes with that adjustment. How do you survive in a world that you don’t understand?
What was your favourite scene to write?
There’s a huge confrontation scene towards the end of Sentinel that I really enjoyed writing, mostly because it’s between two characters who have a history. And seeing as one of them is rather old, the stakes are really high. I probably wrote the entire scene in just an hour or two and barely had to edit it afterwards, it came out just as I wanted. That very rarely happens!
How long have you been writing, and when did you first consider yourself an author?
I still feel uncomfortable with the word ‘author’. I feel like it’s a title you have to earn. For me, ‘author’ means Charles Dickens, JK Rowling, Stephen King. Other people who are far cleverer and more talented than me. I guess technically, yes, I’ve written a book, so I am one of those, but I still don’t feel worthy of the title. Maybe that will change.
Sentinel author Joshua Winning tells us why he chose to set the trilogy in Cambridge…
“As far as I’m aware, there’s never been a young adult fantasy novel set in Cambridge,” says Joshua Winning. “That thought struck me when I was halfway through editing the first draft of Sentinel. At the time of editing, Sentinel was set in a nondescript part of London, which struck me as kind of dull. When I visited my aunt in Cambridge that summer (I now live in London), I had a lightbulb moment. I needed to relocate the book – and almost the entire Sentinel Trilogy – to the city that I’d called home for most of my adult life.
“It completely changed the book. As I explored Cambridge through the eyes of my characters, I saw it as the perfect place for a horror-fantasy novel. The city is this odd, gorgeous mix of contemporary and really, really old, which is exactly the tone I wanted for Sentinel. It’s set in modern times, but deals in powers that have their roots in the ancient world.”
Here are three of the Cambridge locations that are pivotal to Sentinel…
The Fitzwilliam Museum
“When I first moved to Cambridge as a student, I was actually too scared to go into the Fitzwilliam Museum. It’s this monstrous building right in the city centre and pretty imposing. The lion statues really do seem to be guarding the building, warding off anybody (or anyTHING) who might mean it harm.
“As a writer, of course, something like the Fitzwilliam Museum is the perfect setting for nefarious supernatural activity – it lends itself perfectly to the fantasy-horror genre, and I had no trouble dreaming up a pivotal sequence that took place there. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s hopefully every bit as creepy as I imagined the museum to be before I finally went inside. And, naturally, I found a way to keep those magnificent lions in there…”
“Cambridge really is a city that has moods, and those moods usually coincide with the changing seasons. One place where this is never more apparent is Midsummer Common, which is where Sentinel’s lead character, Nicholas Hallow, lives.
“It’s a green patch of land just outside of the city centre. In the winter, it looks miserable, grey and hugely uninviting. In the summer, it’s packed full of revellers who come and soak up the sun while enjoying the fairground that opens there. Also, as I dug into the Common’s history, I found out some fascinating – and occasionally horrific – things about what had taken place there. Those findings are also in Sentinel…”
Cambridge Train Station
“Boring, huh? Well, the train station offers us our first glimpse of Cambridge in the first chapter of Sentinel. I love train stations. They’re great for paranoia, which is what I was going for in Sentinel’s first chapter as Anita and Maxwell Hallow embark on a mysterious trip. Can you really trust your fellow passengers? What if they’re not there because they want to catch a train? What if they’re actually after you..?
Those are just a few of the locations I used as a backdrop for the fantastical events of Sentinel, but the city really does have so much to offer. Though the second book in the Sentinel Trilogy takes a detour to another town (I spy another blog down the line), I would love to explore Cambridge even further in book three. Wow, was that a spoiler?”
What People Are Saying About Sentinel
“If you love action and mystery then this book is for you” – Guardian Children’s Books
“Joshua Winning could well be on to a winner with this unsettling but entertaining icebreaker” – SciFiNow Magazine
“Sentinel sets a dark, gritty tone. The action is fast and violent, the monsters, including a seductive vampiress, are memorable” – The Sun
“I wish there had been more books like this around when I was a teen. I would have devoured them all, one after another” – The Eloquent Page
“This is one of those books that I started and couldn’t stop until it was finished. It’s well-written, engaging, and vastly different from the majority of YA lit currently on offer. It has hints of Rowling, Clare, and even a Whedon, but still clearly stands on its own” – MiniMac Reviews
“Written poetically, with carefully-drawn characters, this is an extremely promising YA debut by a young author” – Press Association
“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” – HorrorTalk
“One for fans of Terry Pratchett, Edgar Allan Poe and Tolkien. Joshua Winning’s Sentinel has everything fantasy readers could want: action, mystery, gore, magic and an orphan with wacky relatives.” – Culture Fly