Sentinelspire by Mark Sehestedt is the fourth, and final, novel in a series of stand-alone novels titled The Citadels. The previous novels in this series are; Neversfall: The Citadels by Ed Gentry, Obsidian Ridge: The Citadels by Jess Lebow, and The Shield of Weeping Ghosts: The Citadels by James P. Davis. This novel marks Mr. Sehestedt's second foray into the Forgotten Realms as an author, his first novel being Frostfell. As with the other books in the Citadels series, readers need not have read any other Forgotten Realms novels prior to reading this book. I, for one, am pleased with the recent trend of Wizards of the Coast to publish these stand-alone novels. It allows the reader to enjoy the book without worrying about prior storylines.
The plot of this book is not the conventional fantasy plot. Meaning that while there is a linear aspect to it, the plot of this book is more about self discovery and internal struggle. The main plot of the book deals with a ranger and his apprentice encounter things that had long been forgotten. (I apologize for the vagueness, but I am trying to keep this review spoiler free). There are also several sub plots that flesh out the novel. Such as who the Old Man is and what his followers real purpose are. Lastly, since this is a novel in the Citadel series, there is a citadel that is surrounded by mystery. Unlike the first three novels in the series though, I felt the citadel, Sentinelspire, just didn't measure up to the intrigue and mystery of those that came before it. Now, please know I am not talking about the overall story here, just the actual citadel. It just didn't seem to play as prominent role in the story as the others, which was slightly disappointing.
The characters in this novel are really where story is. Characters such as Berun and Lewan, ranger and apprentice respectively, both of these characters start off interesting but as the story progresses they become much more interesting. The character development of these two characters is well done, but more importantly, it makes sense. It is not character development for the sake of character development. It is character development because of events, thoughts, and flaws of the individual characters. It didn't seemed forced at all. There are other characters in this novel that are enjoyable to read about as well such as, Sauk, Talieth, Perch, and Taaki. All of the characters had a role in the book and didn't seem to be there strictly for filler. As far as characters go in a Forgotten Realms novel, the characters in this novel are some of the best I have read in quite some time.
A few criticisms about this novel:
1 - With a series titled The Citadels and with the previous books before it. I was disappointed with the lack of mystery and intrigue surrounding the Sentinelspire. This may very well just be related to how well written the other three books in the series were, but I simply did not care about the citadel in this book. It really could have taken place anywhere in the Realms.
2 - The `twists' in the book were rather disappointing to me. They seemed so clichéd and any fan of the fantasy genre should be able to predict the twists and how things will play out. For a book with such interesting characters to fall back into these clichés takes some of the power away from the book.
Now, some positives about this book:
1 - As I mentioned above. The characters are interesting and refreshing. In Frostfell, I was disappointed by the characters, not so with this book. I can easily see myself wanting to read more about a couple of the characters in this book.
2 - The vividness of the writing. Mr. Sehestedt proves that less is more. He gives the reader just enough information to allow their imagination to run wild. It's nice to know that there are authors out there who do not feel the need to describe every little detail.
3 - The length of the novel. At 375 pages it is longer than most Forgotten Realms novels. However, Mr. Sehestedt uses every word to tell his story. There is rarely a slowly in the pacing and, for the most part, clicks along at an enjoyable pace.
Is this the best book in the Citadels series? I don't think so, I would have to give that honor to Neversfall. However, this book certainly is a very good addition to the series, and the Forgotten Realms in general. I am becoming a big fan of these stand-alone novels. In my opinion, Mr. Sehestedt has grown quite considerably since he penned Frostfell and seems to be well on his way to a very good career as an author. If people are looking for a self-contained story with interesting characters this is certainly a book that would come to mind right away.