- Series: The Dinosaur Lords (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Tor Fantasy; Reprint edition (May 31, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765382113
- ISBN-13: 978-0765382115
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.7 x 7.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 88 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Dinosaur Lords: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – May 31, 2016
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"It's like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones." ―George R. R. Martin
About the Author
The Dinosaur Lords is the start of a sprawling epic fantasy series by VICTOR MILÀN, best known for his award winning novel Cybernetic Samurai. In previous worlds he's been a cowboy and Albuquerque's most popular all-night prog-rock DJ. He's never outgrown his childhood love of dinosaurs…and hopes you didn't either.
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Well, color me disappointed.
Like many people I first heard of this book last year, when it was announced as the exciting lovechild of Game of Thrones and Jurassic Park (by none other than GRRM himself). With gorgeous cover art, an exciting synopsis, a positive review from George, AND the promise that we'd get to see knights on dinosaurs, I was one of those early believers that this would be the next BIG thing and who can blame us? This book sounds like it appeals to just about everyone that's summarily interested in fantasy with its blend of magic, politics, war, and freaking dinosaurs. Surely Milan had found the perfect storm of content, the best melting pot of subject matter, to unleash upon the fantasy reader-base, right?
As kickass as the concepts may be, and let me just pause here to say mounted dinosaur battles ARE pretty kickass, they can't support the novel on their own. It's the equivalent of sticking the shiniest, nicest, racing tires on a schoolbus and then trying to drive anywhere. You won't get very far. I was around halfway through when my interest started going and every chapter from that point forward became a test of endurance. By the end I was bored through and through and the clumsy cliffhangers stuck into the last chapters did nothing to inspire me to continue on with the series.
Fundamentally, there are several major flaws with this book but my largest complaint by far were the shallow, insipid characters that populated this narrative. Let's get one thing clear here, authors: simply because you have multiple viewpoints, a large cast, and a medieval world with different levels of society and internal politics, does not mean you are the next George RR Martin. What MADE Game of Thrones so successful was that GRRM knew how to write his characters and how to write them well. You may not have liked many of them and some of them you loved to hate, but at the end of the day you understood their motivations and their personalities. With the exception of Robin Hobb and maybe Joe Abercrombie, I don't think there's another fantasy author out there currently who can write such varied characters so effortlessly. Milan doesn't even come close.
It's something of a clue-in when, at the end of 400 odd pages, I still have no idea who I'm supposed to be rooting for in the Dinosaur Lords (let alone who the true opposition is) and to be fair, I don't really have great choices. Jaume, the Knight Captain of the elite order of fighting men called the Companions, seems to be a top contender but there was nothing about him that was remotely interesting. He's a poet, a lover, one of the best knights and military commanders in the land, ridiculously handsome, charming... The one 'flaw' in his character seems to be his sense of duty which compels him to complete orders that he disagrees with in his golden heart of hearts. But this isn't a tragically tormented person torn between loyalty and morals (a la Ned Stark), this is a bland Knight with a perfect physique and a randomly small elite fighting force (which despite its 15 odd members or so, we never get a chance to really meet). Seriously, I felt more attachment to the triceratops in the opening battle than I did to the Companions as a unit.
Then there's Rob Korrigan, the minstrel and rogue (who despite being a minstrel never sings anything until the last 5 pages) tasked with raising a milita to defend an order of pacifists from the raids of nearby greedy Lords. I think Rob's function was to be the voice of the every day ordinary man but his comedy ran more than a little flat and it's obvious he was there mainly as a foil to the mysterious ex-commander Karyl who helps raise the army with him. Rob and Karyl are probably the least grating of the cast, even with Rob ogling every woman who passes by, but their section was painfully slow and not particularly interesting. Why do we care about this order of Pacifists? It's not exactly made clear. Why does Karyl agree to resume training men when, by his own account, he's tired of being in command? We're not really sure. Why does the sorceress who hired these two (and yes there are sorceresses in this world) have an interest in this order of pacifists? Who knows. Instead of clarification or grounding context we get some lackluster descriptions of archery practice, wooo.
Melodia is the last of our major players: the daughter of the Emperor of Paradise she supposedly chafes at not being allowed to do anything but we only know this because it's told to us, not because she demonstrates it in any way, shape, or form. Melodia's just dull, that's pretty much the only way to put it. The only amusing thing about her chapters were that they allowed us glimpses at the doings of her father, the Emperor, who is legitimately THE dumbest ruler I've ever come across in fantasy literature. Seriously, you could put my dog on the Fanged Throne of Paradise and he would do a better job ruling than this guy. He makes major decisions to go to war on one of his neighbors based on one short council, inconclusive evidence, and the encouragement of an ex-rebel (an ex-enemy!) who recently joined his court. He then allows said ex-rebel to duel to the death and then REPLACE his chief bodyguard (a man who served him loyally for 70 years!) effectively granting him sole control over the Emperor's own elite Imperial soldiers.
... What? .....
Milan wants to pass himself off as having this great, convoluted political scheme, as being a writer that can develop a complex world, but everything he's done so far is superficial and lazy. Big choices like whether or not the Emperor should launch a war are decided in, oh, 2 paragraphs. There's a lot of traveling from place to place and when we get there the battle instantly starts, no preparation required. Magic exists (?) but people don't really know or talk about it. In fact the whole world building seems haphazard, contradictory at times, and ill-thought out. From a few of the excerpts we're lead to believe that our star-travelling ancestors found Paradise, seeded it with human and animal and dinosaur life sometime so long ago that its origin was forgotten. Fine, so it's got a distant sci-fi twist but then why is there magic? Is this world inherently magic? Is magic just the remnant of advanced tech still hanging around? And why, of all things, is the sorceress named Aphrodite!? I like being given cake and eating it, but this seems ridiculously bloated: dinosaurs, knights, ancient sci-fi origin stories, tie ins to Greek myth, alternate European nations and languages, and magic. When you try to cram all that in with as much disinterested attention to detail as Milan displays, you get one chunky 400 page mess.
The dinosaurs ARE cool. While it's true that the book hamstrung itself for me around the halfway point, the only thing that kept it lurching forward were the dinos. The visual appeal of knights jousting on dinosaur back or of war-hadrosaurs grappling chest to chest with each other is undeniable. It's vivid, it's exciting, it's fun to hell to read about, and it reminded me again and again of what wasted potential this book had.
The Dinosaur Lords wanted to burst onto the scene with a T-rex roar. It wanted to be this big, bold, beautiful new thing. But between the dull characterization, the pacing problems, and a bloated plot that manages to strive for too much and accomplishes too little, this one swayed out of the woodwork like a drunken sackbut instead.
The premise, while interesting sounding on Amazon, felt like more of a veneer once I started reading. Yes, there are dinosaurs. But they are really just generic "war animals" in the first few chapters. Think Hannibal's elephants.
The writing didn't win me over. The first chapter left me a bit confused with the action in the fight and the dinosaur trainer character felt off somehow.
The book continues the unfortunately common fantasy-sin of introducing a new character every single chapter. This has the downside of killing momentum. If you didn't hook me with your first character in one chapter, then the chances of a second character hooking me go down. I'm not sure why so many fantasy books go this route now.
The part where I gave up was when the now one-handed main character (who also has amnesia!) has taught himself how to juggle with a few days/weeks of losing his hand. I guess I just found that a bridge too far. I'm sure there are probably one-handed people who can juggle (maybe). And (maybe) they can teach themselves how to do it. But I just couldn't swallow the timescale on which this happened.
This book has the blurb "It's like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones" on the cover. I completely agree with that blurb and believe it to be an accurate description on the story. However, the book was just.... uh, yeah - I tried people! I really tried to like this! :(
The book follows two main plots, and as the story progresses, it branches out with some sides plots. The first plot follow Rob Korrigan, a dinosaur master, and Lord Karyl Bogomirsky, a mercenary Dinosaur Lord. At the start of the story, these men are on opposing sides - Rob having been hired by the Princes' Party to train the dinosaurs which will be used to fight against Lord Karyl's White River Legion, who have been hired by the Empire of Nuevaropa - when an unexpected turn of treachery strikes the battle field causing misfortune to fall upon Lord Karyl.
Later on, a mysterious women hires Rob to find Lord Karyl - which seems impossible, because he is supposed to be dead - yet, Rob does find him, and Lord Karyl confirms that he is not dead... but did die twice. The two return to the cloaked women who says they both need to go help train the people of The Garden to protect themselves.
The second plot follows activities going on with the Empire in the Firefly Palace. Here we meet Melodia, the daughter of the Emperor, and her soon to husband, Jamue Llobregat - a champion swords man, philosopher, and leader of the Order of the Compains - who we actually first met on the battle field with Lord Karyl.
At the court one day, a very unexpected visitor appears and becomes allies with Melodia's father, the Emperor. This is something that unsettles both her and Jaume greatly, and, soon after, the Emperor decides to send of the army, lead by Jaume, to take care of some business.
This is where the plot breaks to follow Jamue on his crusade with the army, and Melodia with her doings and suspicions at the palace.
I want to start by saying there is a lot of things this books great: First would be the world-building. The culture, politics, different religions and philosophies, the nature/wildlife, how the people dress - I thought all that was great. At the start of each chapter - along with a sketch of a dinosaur - will be an entry from The Books of True Names explaining a little bit about a certain dinosaur, or it will be "A Primer To Paradise For The Improvement Of Young Mind", which is a little background to the history of the religion of Paradise. As for the dinosaurs themselves, I felt they were incorporated perfectly into the story. It was not as basic as replacing a dino with horse ;if you were to take out the Dinosaurs, the whole plot falls apart - they are crucial to the story. I was also a fan of Victor's prose, and he is up there on my list of authors with the best vocabulary.
Sadly, there are two items that should have stood out that I did not just mention: Character and plot. I had zero type of connection or empathy for any of the characters. I had no idea that all of our main protagonist, were actually our main protagonists until they kept having POV chapters! They all felt like side characters to me. I thought Karyl was just there for us to see the battle at the start, and the way Jamue is depicted - as the perfect white knight is shinning armer, every girl swooning over him - was going to be set up to die to develop another character or the plot. NOPE. With the exception Lord Karyl - who has died twice - there is nothing special or unique or interesting about any of the characters; they just weren't memorable. I actually had to go back and look up all their names now for the review :/
The books is told with multiple POVs, as I have stated. Some people don't like having a lot, but I've always loved it... as long as it is executed correctly. The chapters are already short to begin with - maybe 8 to 10 pages? - but each chapter is then split up into sections for multiple characters. So at times, we literally don't even get a page's worth of writing for a POV and end up with only a brief scene. And that what this books felt like: scenes; jumping from character to character, showing little scenes here and there, that make up the story and are supposed to develop our characters. It wasn't so bad at the start and end of the book, but the middle chuck was a mess. Then fact that the plots didn't even interest me from the beginning... :/
The only character's POV I did enjoy was Melodia. Paradise is a very hot place, so people are very skimppy on the clothing, and most of the people do follow a belief in hedonism. Needless to say, her and fellow Princesses had many conversations and moments where all I could say was WOW. It all felt very over the top the way they acted, but it was entertaining and funny. Of course though, her scenes felt scarce to me (or maybe it was because I was bored by everything Rob and Karyl were doing... and even after the end of this book, I am still convinced that Jamue feels like a side character?).
Anyways... GRRM, the man himself, compared it to Game of Thrones, and it does have the feel with the multiple POVs, complex plot, and politics. After the prologues - which was great - and the opening battle, I thought this story was going to take off! But yeah... like I've been saying: nothing.
I kept trying to figure out what was wrong when I was reading, when I read another review, and they used the perfect word: FLAT. It's so cruel to say, but yes, the book felt flat :(
I wanted to like this books so incredibly much! I even tried putting it down 3 times and came back to it later because I thought I might have been in a funk. Victor has great prose, great world building, and did an amazing job at incorporating the dinosaurs - but it doesn't matter how good the writing and world are, if I am bored and completely uninterested with the characters and story.
There are zero things for me to say are bad, but without the dinosaurs, there is also zero things that make this books stand out, and a bunch of things that were just okay and meh. And when I closed this book, that all I thought it was: okay and meh.
I strongly urge you to read other reviews out there. I don't think was a bad book, and I know many people who thought this was a fun story; I don't regret reading it, but seeing that all the pieces were there to make something that could have truly been a one-of-a-kind epic fantasy... it's breaks my heart to not have enjoyed it :(
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