One enemy. Two brothers. And a perilous quest in search of four mystical keys
This is the tagline from Sentinel, City of Destiny, a 300-page allegorical account of a journey through the land of Callow to the city of Sentinel. Twin brothers Jerol and Jadan must travel from the town of Gelandesprung through a mysterious forest, across the barren plain of Gall, and over dangerous mountains. Each boy hopes to find four royal keys that unlock the gates of Sentinel, where he will fulfill his destiny and serve Deus, the King, for the rest of his life--not an easy quest and one not to be undertaken frivolously. The enemy, Azrael, has vowed to stop any boy from entering the sacred city. His minions are abroad and up to their ancient tricks of waylaying the unwary and unprepared traveler.
There are many things I appreciate about Sentinel, City of Destiny. The four keys (representing courage, integrity, vision, and service) make me think about how these virtues should be incorporated into the lives of our children as we travel through our own "Callow" world in search of our heavenly home. I like the 34-page study guide at the back of the book, which allows for in-depth discussion. And I like how the author used two brothers--similar to Passion and Patience in Little Pilgrim’s Progress--to contrast right and wrong choices in our lives.
The book is intended for boys ages 8 and up. However, I found some of the word choices beyond any but the most avid 8-year-old reader’s vocabulary. In addition, the story is told almost entirely in a narrative (and often plodding) fashion, which slows the action. Unfamiliar allegorical words are superscripted with asterisks, prompting the reader to look them up in the extensive glossary at the back of the book. I gave up after the first half-dozen. It was much too intrusive to keep flipping to the back of the book, and it pulled me away from the story.
For boys who cannot get enough fantasy-like books of daring quests and feats of valor (and who are willing to overlook the above-mentioned concerns), Sentinel provides a story that they can definitely apply to their lives. There’s no doubt about it--the author did a superb job of relating every stage of the journey with something each boy or young man faces in his life. While younger boys are likely to become impatient reading Sentinel on their own, it could be used as a read-aloud for devotions. Talking about the chapters (with the help of the study guide) would make for some lively discussions.