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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dinosaur Lords (A Book Based Entirely on It’s Cover)


Pro: Interesting concept
Con: …Are we there yet?

The Bottom Line: “Jurassic Park meets Game of Thrones,” reads George R.R. Martin’s tagline. Oh if only, Mr. Martin. If only.

I first saw the cover for this book a long while back on Twitter and made a mental note. Dinosaurs and fantasy coming together? Hell yeah I’m in. So when I finally, finally saw it in the store, I picked it up. I had high hopes. I mean the tagline alone was a huge lure. After all – Victor Milán has created a story with people fighting on dinosaurs with swords and armor. How could I not like this?

Unfortunately there’s a lot in here that just didn’t work well for me. And I hate to emphasize this but…a lot. And it really bums me out because I really hoped to have a great time reading this. Instead, I almost quit 30 pages in and decided if I wasn’t interested enough by page 100, I was going to stop altogether. The book held on – albeit barely – and I made it to the end. But I was left disappointed and don’t intend to continue with the series when the next book comes out. Because yes, it does indeed end in clearly-there-will-be-more-books fashion.

When it comes to the plot, one could describe it as Jurassic Park meets Game of Thrones – however, both of those things are infinitely better. One half of the book is political intrigue that isn’t very interesting and that features characters that are equally uninteresting. There's Jaume, the best soldier in the land who follows orders even if they’re terrible and he knows it. Melodia, a princess who sounds like she could kick ass but seems more like she’s all bluster and never really does anything. Her father the emperor who is the biggest idiot in power I've ever seen, and Falk, the bad guy whose bad guy-ness isn't even hidden (which sort of ruins the whole "intrigue" bit) and despite being skilled and powerful is a total lapdog to his mom and a servant despite complaining about it all the time. Their story is slow and features zero mystery or surprises.

The other half of the book features Rob, a dinosaur master that lords hire and then shit on, something I didn’t understand (why would you be an asshole to the guy in charge of handling all your dinosaurs? Shouldn’t that be a position of honor? And actually, now I'm starting to question the title...) and Voyvod Karyl, the brooding super-badass who’s the most interesting character of the group because he isn’t an idiot and the gods clearly have designs for him. Their job? Teach a bunch of people to learn how to fight in order to defend themselves. Rob and Karyl’s ventures take multiple wholly uneventful chapters that could have easily been skipped for the sake of time and jumped forward to more interesting events.

Despite all the dinosaurs thrown at you, both in getting you to read the book and actually in the book, their inclusion is a bit of a letdown. Warriors don’t ride meat eaters as we all would expect, and the reasoning for this (which I’m sort of assuming) isn’t all that great. Instead, they’re on hadrosaurs. Go look that up. I’ll wait. True, they’re bigger and more dangerous at running people over than horses, but it’s still not all that impressive. You could take just about every dinosaur out of this book and replace it with an animal we’re all familiar with and it wouldn’t cause much of a ripple.

An issue that cropped up early on that gave me a few red flags is simply the sheer number of names and point of views thrown at you in quick fashion. I feel like there should be some kind of fantasy rule of thumb that says don’t put more than 10 characters on the page within the first few chapters. If I remember right, even if I skip over the Prologue, Milán dumps at least 6 or 7 different POVs by page 40. He’s certainly fine with throwing dozens of names at you in Tolkien fashion. People have multiple names/titles, and so do some of the dinosaurs. The first chapter flings you into the middle of a battle that is confusing as hell for a multitude of reasons, this being only one of them.

Now, at the beginning of the book, Milán makes it clear; this is not Earth, nor any version of it. And yet throughout the entire book we get people speaking in what is very clearly Spanish, likewise we get words that are very clearly echoes of today’s peoples – i.e. Frances (hm, French perhaps?), Anglysh (gee, English, maybe?). This totally defeats the purpose of us not thinking in terms of Earth. And I get that maybe Milán is using Spanish as his fantasy language, but that doesn’t work for me. You can’t just chuck a real language into a fantasy world. It’s distracting and totally takes you out of said fantasy world. “But Nicole, the entire book is in English!” Yeah, you’re right. It is. But when it comes to that sort of thing, I always think in my mind that the book has been translated into English so I can read it. What about Spanish readers, then? They’re not getting anything fun or special when characters just break into the language that's already on the page. Readers are supposed to decipher fantasy words through context or be told what they are later or have them purposely left to mystery. I know enough Spanish that I could read just about everything. And if he's not using Spanish as his fantasy language then...what the heck is the point? I simply don’t understand the logic behind it.

There are other, smaller points I could get into, but I won’t bother. Just know that overall, it was really disappointing. It holds so much promise and numerous possibilities, but it just fell flat. I wish Milán success, and I’m sure there will be some fans that enjoyed this and will read his second book. I just won’t be one of them.

NT

P.S. Truth strikes once again - don't judge a book by its cover.

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