I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden – and of war. Colossal planteaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meateaters like Allosaurus and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from batsized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.
Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…and the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where we have vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engaged in battle. And during the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac – and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.
Reasons to love The Dinosaur Lords:
1. DINOSAURS. Yup, they're part of everyday life on the planet of Paradise.
2. A chance to actually use that French/Spanish/Latin that you've studied in school.
3. All the fun stuff included in high fantasy epics--battles, personal vendettas, romances, escapes and captures, death, lies, and sometimes truths.
This novel owes a debt of gratitude to many that went before it. There is a nod to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books (if you are present at the hatching of one of the large carnivorous dinosaurs, it will bond to you and you alone). The quotes from various texts at the beginning of each chapter were very reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, although this world is much less complex. And there is a distinct Robin Hood vibe to the last chapters of the book wherein the Rob, the “Irish” bard, and Karyl Bogomirksy, the old campaigner, take a group of peasants and unwilling nobles and try to forge them into a fighting force to stand up to the Dinosaur Lords.
Still, I found some aspects of the book jarring. Every now and then, in a pseudo-Medieval setting, a blunt, modern term would slap me out of the narrative. Usually something just a bit too coarse for the rest of the writing. There was only one sex scene, which was described much more towards the porn end of the spectrum than I would have expected—if you haven’t seen your lover for months, there is urgency yes, but there is still affection and tenderness that was completely missing from this depiction. Unfortunately, there is a rape in the latter stages of the book and I found it more realistic than the supposedly loving sex.
However, this novel passes the Bechdel test with flying colours! There is a whole bevy of strong women who surround princess Melodía, who is herself seeking a way of making her life more meaningful. Instead of just letting life slip by in a series of pleasures and entertainments, these women are seeking to influence their society. They have sexual agency and a fair bit of freedom and are making the most of it. Bonus points!
I can definitely see where those who are not dinosaur aficionados would be somewhat confused (although that is what those chapter headings are there to help with) and if you resolutely resist using any language except English, you will encounter difficulties. Some interest in Medieval vocabulary is of utility to the reader as well (i.e. knowing that a sackbut is a trombone-like instrument and that Parasaurolophus had a long crest which presumably gave it’s call a trombone-like quality, hence calling this species of Hadrosaur a Sackbut).
I think every dinosaur lover has dreamt of being able to see these marvelous animals in the flesh (and not in Jurassic Park, either!); this book allows us to indulge this dream a bit. The dinosaur masters, who care for the war-dinosaurs, obviously love their charges and have fond relationships with them. I think many of us will insert ourselves imaginatively into that role!
I look forward to the second installment of the tale, The Dinosaur Knights.