Joshua Winning – Splinter

The world is falling apart around Nicholas Hallow. Amid rumours that the Dark Prophets have returned, a deathly gloom pollutes England, unleashing a savage hoard of nightmare creatures. Fighting the tide of evil, Nicholas returns home to Cambridge, where an old ally helps him seek out the mysterious Skurkwife, who could help Nicholas stop Malika and the Prophets for good.

Meanwhile, Sam Wilkins unites the Sentinels against the forces of darkness, but with Jessica’s sanity slipping, and Isabel suspicious of her shadowy past, it’s a battle that could cost the Sentinels everything.

Splinter is the final book in Joshua Winning’s Sentinel trilogy. In the interest of full disclosure, I read an earlier draft of the book as well as the final version.  As I’d enjoyed the previous two, Sentinel and Ruins, a lot, I was looking forward to reading this final instalment in the series and finding out whether and how Nicholas and friends would vanquish the Dark Prophets. Splinter was definitely worth the wait though as it is a great wrap up of this very entertaining series. 

Nicholas has certainly grown up a lot in over the course of the series. Where in the first book I complained that he didn’t seem to have a lot of agency and being mostly led by his elders, in Splinter he almost runs the show. What I did like is that he didn’t do so obstinately: he was willing to take counsel and weigh the advice before taking a decision, but when he decides, he takes full responsibility. He never utters a whiney ‘Why me?’ as Eddings’ Garion was wont to do — even when he acknowledges that it isn’t fair that he has to make certain choices, he always follows that with the realisation that someone would have to make the choice so it may as well be him.

Splinter is action packed, with a lot of monster fighting going on. There were some tricksy turns in the plot that I thought were very well done. They were inventive and created some interesting emotional challenges for Nicholas. The action is well-paced, with a few slightly less frantic sections to allow both the characters and the readers to breathe. It all ramps up to an explosive finale, which was very satisfying. 

The characters all showed a lot of development, not just Nicholas. I liked that we saw the gang of four teens split up and saw Dawn and Rae become closer and got to see more from their point of view as well. Dawn’s growing self-confidence and certainty in her research abilities were lovely, as were the moments where Rae allowed her friends to see more of her vulnerable side. I really liked the way the relationship between Nicholas and Merlyn developed. It was surprisingly uncomplicated, even if taking place in the middle of an apocalypse. Often when YA characters fall in love with someone of the same sex it becomes an angsty tale not just of falling in love and agonising over whether the object of their affection returns their feelings, it also focuses on their realisation and/or acceptance of their own sexual preferences. Or at least, that used to be a rather common trope. All of that was absent here. Nicholas falls for Merlyn and the only worry there was whether Merlyn liked him back (and whether they’d survive the apocalypse obviously). I loved that. 

Splinter offers a wonderful resolution to the tale told in the Sentinel trilogy, even if I’m a little sad to say goodbye to Nicholas, Isabel and friends. Winning ties up al of the loose ends while leaving you with the feeling that Nicholas’ and the Sentinels’ story continues after you close the book. The series overall was a pleasure to read and it was interesting to see not just Nicholas develop into a leader, but also to follow Winning’s growth as a writer. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

This book was provided for review by the author.