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The Dinosaur Lords
by Victor Milan
TOR Books; $26.99; 445pp
Published: July 2015

We have: A viciously compelling Northern European flavored civilization called Nuevaropa on a world named Paradise. The languages and civilizations are set up in a sort of Medieval/Renaissance mode—except the exalted knights ride war hadrosaurs (among other dinosaurs) and the world around them is populated with a hundred varieties of dinosaur; colorful huge Tyrannosaurs as well as little bitty pterosaurs flitting about. The reptiles are used as food, transportation and terror. And for some reason, there are also horses, goats, dogs, cats and ferrets called the Five Friends. All brought from the Old Home world which was apparently very cold by the Eight Creators of Paradise which form the current pantheon of gods.

And yes: as it says on the cover, this is a sort of “Game of Thrones” with dinosaurs. There are plenty of graphic horrendous battles with knights, nobles and serfs. Dinosaurs crushing people into the mud and folks speared through the neck and chest, limbs and heads chopped off.  And, oh yes, there is treachery, pillaging and rape, too.

The greatest knight of his age, the Voyvod Karyl Bogomirsky (kind of an Ilya Muromets?) who rode a half-sentient T-Rex named Shiraa was thought killed in a horrific opening battle but survived and is reduced to penury. He helps pull together a rag-tag army to confront tyranny with the help of a homeless dinosaur master and minstrel, the Ayerish Rob Korrigan. A new religious sect of Beauty and Truth finds they need to fight against the predations of their bellicose neighbors and so hire Karyl and Rob to whip a bunch of pacifists (called Gardeners) and farmers into a fighting force.

Meanwhile, the Emperor Felipe’s favored Imperial Champion Count Juame, (a poet and founder of the Beauty and Truth movement and beloved of the Princess Melodia) has been sent to squash a rebellion. The Imperial Court he leaves behind is riddled with intrigue, nasty machinations and everyone (no surprise) has their own agendas and none of them favor the Emperor.

Power is shifting everywhere; even the ancient mythical terrors called the Grey Angels have been sighted. Traditions and new thinking are clashing violently along with armies here.

Milan’s writing is terrific and this was a hard book to put down. His descriptive ability is so creative and vivid. It is an amazing world where humans live in careful ease with mostly tamed dinosaurs—including T-Rexes—which are not only ridden in battle but are used as the ultimate in execution by beheading: they simply bite the head off the malefactor in a public square.

There are brave women in this tale, too; especially the daughters of the Emperor, Melodia and Montserrat and the servants that surround them.

What we don’t have: I would have given anything for a good map (The map in the beginning of the book has only a little to do with the tale.)

Also, interesting as each chapter heading was—usually a description of the many names and the kinds of creatures or gods that are on Paradise---the great slashing, vibrant illustrations by Richard Anderson do not reflect the creature described. I had a really hard time picturing the armor and the dinosaurs (because there are so many named) and where we were in relation to other critical geographical spots. The language used most frequently was a form of Spanish (though Milan is carefully to say in the beginning the setting “isn’t Earth.”) All well and good—but the names are frequently a mouthful, so a pronunciation guide would have been handy, even though I studied Spanish (i.e.: is the ‘j” pronounced as it is in Juan; are double Ls pronounced as “y”? Where’s the inflection?)

When creating a new world, when the reader has so much that is newly minted tossed at them—a glossary or specific illustrations would have been a huge help—especially (for me) a good one of the frightening Nodosaurs—a version of mounted knights on the eponymously named reptiles.

With all that said, this book series could be as popular as Game of Thrones—it would also be an awesome computer game.

Trust me this is not “Dinotopia.”

It is way more vicious, intense and terrifying. A fascinating, if slightly confusing, beginning to a whole new world. ~~ Sue Martin

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