The Dinosaur Lords, by Victor Milan, is a great read. I admit, I was skeptical at first, but it turns out that reading about dinosaurs and knights is as great as A Game of Thrones.
Victor Milan wrote hundreds fantastic stories and novels covering several genres (sometimes under pseudonyms) since the mid-1980s, winning the Prometheus Award in 1886 for Cybernetic Samurai. As I was reading The Dinosaur Lords, the first book in the fantasy trilogy “The Ballad of Karyl’s Last Ride”, I think he has outdone himself. Set in Paradise (which, the author emphatically notes before the story even begins, is not Earth, or an alternative Earth, or Earth in the future), knights defend kingdoms, and fair maidens bestow their tokens and a high king rules from a beautiful castle. Except the knights don’t have destriers or coursers or stallions: they ride dinosaurs.
We follow several characters’ stories in a medieval-style world where the primary animals are all dinosaurs. Hero Voyvod Karyl loses a key battle, but then is seemingly recruited by the gods to fight a different battle. He and Rob Korrigan, dinosaur master and sometimes bard, are employed to create an army. Lord Jaume, Knight-Commander and Emperor’s champion, leads another group to war and away from his love, Melodia, the Emperor’s daughter. These stories intertwine to show a darker side of Paradise, with something darker perhaps lurking in the near future. The Dinosaur Lords takes you a few places you wouldn’t expect—and a few you knew were coming all along, but still loved to see—and will keep you up past your bedtime reading “just one more chapter.”
Like George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, The Dinosaur Lords is full of battles, violence, political intrigue and people trying to find their paths in sometimes unusual ways. I would say that the reading level is high, and there is some mature content in the book. I would let my older teen read this but not a younger teen, due to the mature themes. The characters are, for the most part, intriguing and well-developed. I do find that Milan, like so many fantasy authors, has played into the trap of creating female characters that follow stereotype: young, beautiful, somewhat silly, and primarily the love interest of the main character—not a character with a rich story line of her own (for a great article on strong female characters, check out 5 Models of Strong Women From ‘Game of Thrones.’) However, he makes up for that with characters who have murky backgrounds, interesting current lives—and some hint of prophecy for their futures. I love that the dinosaurs are not merely a backdrop to the story, but characters in their own rights.
Overall, Milan has created a rich world with intriguing cultures, philosophies, people, and creatures. The mystery of the world’s origins and gods trails you through the book, keeping you wondering–but without distracting you constantly. And the dinosaurs. Milan brings back the wonder and excitement about dinosaurs that you felt the very first time you saw Jurassic Park. They are more than just the steeds for the knights. They are a wonder in the world, both domesticated and tame. To quote Milan:
“The majority of folk viewed dinosaurs as nothing more than tools, toys, or terrors, depending on the circumstance. They regarded the beasts as simply there, like rocks and trees, and paid them no particular mind unless they were about to be trampled or ripped to pieces by them. But no man or woman became a dinosaur master who ever saw a dinosaur, no matter how small, without a sense of affection that was almost proprietary.
And none could behold one of the titans without a sense of awe verging on the religious.”
Milan brings back that feeling of awe throughout the book, and makes you impatient for the second book as soon as you’ve finished the first. I truly recommend reading The Dinosaur Lords.