Note: Depression has been effecting me more strongly this month and has probably colored my review of this book.
Fantasy is my genre of choice and for most of my life I’ve wanted to be a paleontologist so when I received “The Dinosaur Lords” for Christmas I assumed I wouldn’t be able to put the book down, sadly that was not the case. In fact it was hard for me to get going in the first place. The book starts with a page informing you that the planet, Paradise, is not Earth, never was Earth and never will be Earth. Ok, not Earth, firmly established. The text opens with a battle sequence and knights riding dinosaurs into battle is very exciting but then a whole host of noble’s names and factions are spit at you. As currently there isn’t any context for who these people are, or why they are fighting in the first place, I found it difficult to engage from the get go.
One part of the kingdom/empire uses Spanish, another French, another Slavic, etc. After the set up of this not being Earth this felt like lazy world building to try and differentiate groups of people. As you go along you find out why this might be but I still found it distracting. The book is fairly standard fantasy fare. Nobles intriguing against one another for power, dire portents for the future, a ruling family has been in power so long it dismisses it’s own origin history as mere myth. These myths are probably setting up events in future books. There seems to be only one world religion, though there are factions within it. The inter-religious struggle was interesting. The faction that is currently rising to prominence believes that you can’t take the creators’ words as written but must interpret the intent behind the words, a nice commentary on some religious debates today. Magic exists but is very low in the world and the impression I got is that most people do not believe in it. So little was shown in this first book that there is no way to describe the magic system.
The story is told through several different characters’ points of view. Melodia is the spitfire Princess of the ruling family. She is surrounded by a coterie of ladies in waiting whom I found annoying to try and keep track of who is who. This is the same for Jaume, a knight and her intended betrothed, head of a controversial religious sect even though it follows the creators’ words. He has his own retinue of fellow knights that I had difficulty keeping track of as well. Duke Falk von Hornberg so far has been a pretty cookie cutter villain being controlled by others. My favorite character is the dinosaur master Rob, a commoner who hires out to nobles to care for their dinosaurs. Combination bard, rogue and fighter and always surrounded by dinosaurs made his chapters to be a lot of fun to read.
One thing I liked as that they have their own names for dinosaurs. Allosaurus is called a Matador, for example. Each chapter opens with a heading that often gives a dinosaur’s name on Paradise with a description and the name that we would know the dinosaur by. These names are said to come from “The Book of True Names”. The only problem is that there is no index to later reference. An index would have been handy not only for dinosaurs but also for the people in the book. The dinosaurs all seem to be from the late Cretaceous, ones I can remember are Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Parasaurolophus and Corythosaurus (hadrosaurs are the favored war mounts for knights).
One thing that I really disliked about the book was the rape of a character. I could see it coming and yes it was an impetus for a future event but I can’t hep feeling it wasn’t truly necessary. Thankfully there was a fade to black so you don’t have a blow by blow description of the rape.
I greatly enjoyed the descriptions of using dinosaurs in battle and tourneys as well as how they are used in every day life by commoners. They definitely added flavor to an otherwise typical story but not enough to get me to buy the second book, maybe borrow from the library if I can be bothered to remember that it has been released.