Matt Manochio “Sentinels” Review

Posted: November 30, 2015 in Reviews, Uncategorized
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Length: 264 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Release Date: November 3, 2015

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the Sentinels Blog Tour

My first introduction to Matt Manochio’s work was reading The Dark Servant on his blog tour last year. Manochio took the legend of Krampus  – the terrifying beast that serves as a dark foil to Santa Claus – and crafted a super fun read that was full of adrenaline fueled scenes and dark humor. Reading The Dark Servant, it was clear that Manochio was a talented author and I was excited to see what he would come up with next. So when I was approached to join the blog tour for his follow up novel Sentinels, I jumped at the chance.

Sentinels is a supernatural historical horror story set in Reconstruction-era South Carolina. It opens with a pretty intense scene as a rag-tag group of criminals led by Lyle and his friends Brendan and Franklin attempting to kill former slave Toby Jenkins in order to steal the deed for the massive farm he inherited from Charlie Stanhope for the nefarious land baron Thomas Diggs. As they encircle the property, they are attacked by mysterious, shadowy figures and barely escape with their lives.

Noah Chandler is a brand new sheriff’s deputy and was raised in South Carolina but fought for the North after attending Harvard for his law degree. He witnessed his brother die on the battlefield as they fought against each other, an event that still weighs heavy on his conscience. Despite his allegiances during the war, he moves back to his hometown of Henderson after the war in an effort to assist the Reconstruction efforts he deeply believes in. Noah finds himself quickly thrust into a bloody and bizarre situation in his first few days on the job when seven Ku Klux Klan members and two northern soldiers are found savagely murdered outside of a nearby plantation. Noah and the other sheriffs find little evidence and have no idea who would have committed the horrible crimes considering the victims belonged to two opposing groups. It isn’t until Noah talks to one of the survivors, Robert Culliver, that he gets any information at all. Culliver states that it wasn’t men that massacred those men, but wraiths. He said that they moved with precision and that even when they were shot by the soldiers trying to defend themselves, they didn’t bleed like normal men.

Noah chalks up Culliver’s ravings about supernatural entities to the shock of witnessing such a brutal attack and the injuries he sustained. Surely wraiths couldn’t be responsible for killing those men, even if the circumstances surrounding their deaths were a bit bizarre. It isn’t until Culliver is murdered in his heavily guarded jail cell and Noah witnesses a series of unexplained events in the attack that he begins to suspect that there may be some truth to Culliver’s claims. As Noah begins to investigate the attacks, he and his family are plunged into danger and he learns the startling truth about the wraiths.

I am a bit of a history nut, so I loved Manochio’s decision to use the period of Reconstruction as the setting for Sentinels. Lately, I have read a lot of horror books that take place in modern times, so it was refreshing to read a novel with a more historical setting. Manochio gives an unflinching look at the horrors of slavery and the violence that plagued the country during the Civil War and after it was over. There is one particular scene where Toby details his childhood to Noah while they are sharing drinks in the town’s tavern that is particularly gut wrenching. Even though it is clear early on Toby is somehow connected to the brutal attacks carried out by the mysterious figures that plunge Henderson into chaos, it is this scene that makes the reader feel a connection to Toby.

I loved the wraiths Manochio conjures up in the novel and they are definitely creepy! I don’t want to spoil their appearance, but there is a scene toward the end of the novel that had an old school horror feel too it that I enjoyed. While I thought the wraiths were a cool and interesting choice as a horror monster, I felt their history was a bit rushed and ambiguous. Manochio does provide some back story on the wraiths and how they were unleashed on the town of Henderson, but I feel it would have been more effective if it was handled in bits and pieces instead of having it all explained toward the end of the novel.

Manochio does a great job of bringing most of his main characters to life and giving them distinct personalities from the arrogant aristocrat Thomas Diggs to the often mocked criminal Franklin. Noah’s wife Natalie and widower Doreen Culliver seem to be one dimensional early on, but as the novel progresses they become much more complex and one scene late in the novel proves they are total badasses.  Although most of the characters are well developed, there are a few secondary characters that fall flat and get lost in the action. I also loved how Manochio managed to blur the lines between good and evil throughout Sentinels. There are a few characters throughout the novel that stay firmly on one side of the spectrum, but some of them are a lot harder to label. There are characters who start off as good but are forced to do bad things out of necessity and some who are seen as evil only to go against all odds and finally do the right thing.

There are some nice twists and surprises thrown into Sentinels that I didn’t see coming while reading, but after finishing the novel, I realized there were clues to some of the mysteries all along. I love those sort of little surprises and they definitely added to my enjoyment of the novel. Despite a few minor style choices that didn’t work for me, Sentinels is a highly entertaining read that I would definitely recommend to horror fans and particularly those who enjoy historical horror. I am a big fan of both of Manochio’s works and I am looking forward to reading his upcoming novella, Twelfth Krampus Night, which is a medieval tale featuring the infamous Krampus and the equally terrifying Frau Perchta. Twelfth Krampus Night comes right in time for the holidays, hitting shelves on December 1st from Samhain Horror.

Rating: 4/5


Matt Manochio’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase Sentinels: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or your favorite bookstore!

Sentinels tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Sentinels! – #Sentinels  #history #historicalhorror

Sentinels Synopsis

These are no ordinary killers.

They don’t distinguish between good and evil. They just kill. South Carolina’s a ruthless place after the Civil War. And when Sheriff’s Deputy Noah Chandler finds seven Ku Klux Klansmen and two Northern soldiers massacred along a road, he cannot imagine who would murder these two diametrically opposed forces.

When a surviving Klansman babbles about wraiths, and is later murdered inside a heavily guarded jail cell, Noah realizes something sinister stalks his town. He believes a freed slave who’s trying to protect his farm from a merciless land baron can help unmask the killers. Soon Noah will have to personally confront the things good men must do to protect their loved ones from evil.

Praise for Matt Manochio

“Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.” – Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead

“A real page turner. Matt Manochio has gained a fan in me!” – David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Thriller series, on The Dark Servant

“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted. A clockwork mechanism of terror! Highly recommended!” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Shattered, on The Dark Servant

About Matt Manochio


Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree.

He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Press Association Awards for his reporting. He wrote about one of his passions, rock ‘n’ roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career.

He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment, and currently lives in New Jersey with his son.


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