Joshua Winning – Ruins

joshuawinning-ruinsIn his desperate search for answers about the Sentinels, an ancient society of demon hunters that his parents belonged to, fifteen-year-old Nicholas Hallow is tipped into a fresh nightmare of terrifying monsters – and even more sinister humans – which threaten to send the world spiralling into chaos. Can Nicholas track down the mysterious girl who holds the key to their fate?

Earlier this year I reviewed the first book in the Sentinel series, appropriately titled Sentinel and enjoyed it very much, despite its flaws. So I was looking forward to seeing where the story went in the next instalment called Ruins, especially since the cover seemed to suggest we’d be seeing a lot more of my favourite character Isabel. Winning doesn’t disappoint in this exciting sequel, which raises the stakes considerably. 

One of the things that bothered me most about Sentinel was the way Nicholas was mostly kept in the dark, with people not giving him all of the important information. It made him feel a bit lacking in agency as he’s constantly reacting to events, not being pro-active. In Ruins, Winning has dealt with this problem, as Nicholas is far more part of the action and taking his own decisions. I really liked this more engaged Nicholas, who even if he doesn’t know what is going on tries to plot his own course. We also learn more about the background of the Sentinel world in a more coherent form as Nicholas learns more about it in his Sentinel training and through the diaries he’s given to read. Since this was my other big problem with the previous book, I was glad to see that the exposition felt more streamlined and inserted at the right moment.

So the flaws of the first book have been mostly eliminated and there weren’t any glaring new ones to replace them. Does that mean that Ruins is flawless? Not really, as Winning once again chooses to utilise the foggy and undetermined background when introducing our new, additional main character Rae. We get drips and drabs of her story spread out through the first part of the book. Due to this lack of knowledge much of Rae’s logic about choosing certain actions is somewhat confusing. Rae is a fun character, however, and when we finally learn her full history her choices make a lot of sense. She’s a sparky character and I liked her chemistry with Nicholas.

Rae isn’t the only new character of Nicholas’ generation to join the narrative. We also meet the introverted Dawn and the more extrovert and aptly named Merlyn, both children of Sentinel parents who were raised as Sentinels. Dawn forms an interesting contrast to Rae, but also an insider view for Nicholas, while Merlyn gives Nicholas some much needed friendship and conflicted feelings. I really like the dynamics of this group of peers and it’ll be interesting to see whether they’ll come more into their own in the next book of the trilogy. They are very much positioned as the forefront of the new generation of Sentinels, which makes me wonder about the older generation of Sentinels and their role in that final book.

Ruins provides us with a clearer view of the greater scheme of things. We learn the true nature of the adversary and the actual stakes of the narrative. I liked the misdirection Winning applied here, both in referring back to the main opponent from Sentinel and in his sleight of hand with the power balance between Malika and Laurent. The plot of Ruins, which starts off with Sam and Nicholas travelling to Bury St Edmunds to learn more about the nefarious Mr Snelling and at the same time Esus gives Nicholas a quest to find a mysterious girl. Their moving away from Hallow House also means that Jessica is left out of the novel for most of the time, which was surprising. As last time, I loved Isabel, who was once again awesome and crotchety and did I mention a talking cat? Because talking cat for the win! The true affection that develops between Nicholas and Isabel was lovely and different from the mentor and pupil affair it was previously.

With Ruins Winning has grown more sure in his writing. The series takes a darker turn, showing us that not everyone will make it to the end. The story leaves us on a cliffhanger of major proportions and in many ways is a quintessential middle book. It really has to be read in the context of the trilogy. Myself, I can’t wait to find out how this story will resolve and whether the Sentinels manage to prevent the Dark Prophets from rising again.

This book was provided for review by the author.