This Novel is a Tapestry of Words.
Sentinals Awaken by Helen Garraway is the first installment in a captivating fantasy series. This is not a book you inhale. No, it’s a story you savor like a fine piece of chocolate. The layers of rich words and intricate world-building are to be explored. To fully appreciate the author’s exquisite writing, along with the magnificent complexity of her characters, you must take your time as you take it in. (Link to book on Amazon.)
This novel is a tapestry of words – beautiful and lush. Main character Jerrol Haven is genuinely likeable from the first chapter. This is not some run-of-the-mill, massively muscled hero. As a King’s Ranger, he’s a skilled protector. As a wanted man, he is a dangerous adversary. And yet, the author does not take Jerrol down a dark path when he is wrongfully cast out. He is honorable, never cruel. He is not a hero who frustrates the reader.
Even though the author presents different portions of the journey from various character points of view, the reader will not get lost. It is clear who has picked up the story and even more importantly – it makes sense when they do! The author does not switch POVs simply because she can. The different POVs provide the reader with what they need to know to move forward in the story.
Garraway exceled at presenting the numerous pieces of the story’s puzzle without overwhelming the reader. We meet: the King’s Rangers; the Lady / Lady’s Guard; the mysterious Sentinals; the terrifying Ascendants (individuals and concept); the Guardians; Councils; Watchers; the Scholars in their Chapterhouse; the chancellor and the prince – PLUS we learn about elements such as The Oath and The Veil, while following the characters through multiple locations in Remargaren. The Arifels, small flying cat-like creatures, are lovable. Truly, I have never read a book with so many moving parts and yet not once felt lost. THAT is part of Garraway’s great skill as a writer. She crafts her story in such a way as to never leave you wondering what just happened. It all makes sense.
The author clearly paints a vision of Remargaren without trending into pages of unnecessary descriptions that can interrupt a story. For example, she provides the reader with enough description of Sentinal uniforms and attributes so we can see how these characters stand out as something special. We never find ourselves mired in descriptive language.
The author developed a bevy of fascinating characters in addition to the protagonist. I was intrigued by scholar Taelia; I am troubled by scholar Torsion. My assumption is I’ll learn more about these characters in the second book of the series. The extraordinary Sentinals are introduced (awakened) slowly to the reader in the beginning. Birlerion becomes our touchstone for this group; more Sentinals join the story as the journey continues. They are fascinating and intimating in a comforting way. This may be Jerrol’s quest, but the foundation is the Sentinals’ story.
For a woman who spent many childhood days reading with her back against the trunk of a tree, this book was like coming home. And while readers often fantasize about seeing their favorite books as movies or a Netflix series, I would love to see Helen Garraway’s epic tale written into wall-sized tapestries hanging in the high halls of great literature.