Hardcover, Second Edition, 448 pages
Published July 28th 2015 by Tor Books
Few books gathered more anxious and excited energy in 2014 and early 2015 than The Dinosaur Lords. Armed with a brilliant piece of cover art, a big publisher, and a very unique and (potentially) exciting premise, the novel seemed poised to take off upon it’s release. However, following it’s late July arrival, talk of it all but disappeared in the fantasy communities, and the reviews coming back at that point were tepid, at best. Why?
Well, mostly because it’s not a very good book.
The synopsis on the book cover implied, essentially, that we were entering into a world where dinosaurs of all types are present, and humans have harnessed the powers of some of them to be used as mounts or weapons. Sounds epic, right?
If only. We’re thrown into some action to start the book, in the only manner that would be acceptable in a book like this – a skirmish, wherein mounted dinosaur knights ride in and sway the course of the battle. This is going to be great! Except then it falls flat on it’s face. The dinosaurs, for the majority of the book, become little more than an afterthought – a talking point. And unfortunately, when they are mentioned, it’s in the most bland ways possible – discussing constantly how their body weight is their real weapon, how the knights are just an ancillary piece and that the dinosaurs are the true weapons, etc. However, the dinosaurs are vastly under-utilized, and despite being the cover schtick and main focus of the blurb, they are far from the main focus of the novel.
This might be a minor complaint, if the rest of the story, characters, and world were intriguing enough to carry the book. However, they simply aren’t. The book surrounds a handful of main characters, most of which were of varying levels of ‘being awesome’. I very rarely felt like they were in true danger, as one of them would always come up with a plan to save the day. Some of them, especially Rob, were uninventive and very boring – very little character development occurred over the course of the book. He essentially spends his time praising or worshiping other characters, and doing very little for himself.
The worldbuilding leaves a TON to be desired. With the concept of the novel in mind, and knowing that there are dinosaurs and ample room to develop somewhere for them to live, Milan instead injects the novel with “Paradise“, a cookie-cutter pseudo-medieval world. However, despite the dinosaurs and medieval-age technology, there’s a lot of modern twists – a lot of Spanish influence, money in the form of Pesos, people measuring things in the metric system. On top of that, it’s frequently referenced that there was a previous world that people came from back in history, but there was no explanation at any point as to how they got to “Paradise”, no explanation for how the dinosaurs were tamed, no explanation for how this planet even works. It’s very disappointing, and a very lackluster job of developing a setting.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only writing blunder. The prose of the book is acceptable most of the time, however there are a pretty large number of errors in judgement that bring the book down. I noted multiple times in my updates that the book was boring – and that is true, the plot moves at a glacial speed, despite the relatively short page count of the book. There are long speeches early on that involve a lot of characters we do not know, nor do we have any vested interest in, so they come across as hollow and lacking consequence. The dialogue itself is rough as well – often stiff and unrealistic conversations, laden with profanity that would make Joe Abercrombie blush. I’ve no problem with naughty words, but they need to be used appropriately, and they’re just flung around like the crew are proverbial sailors.
The structure of thoughts and dialogue are even worse. I lost track of the number of times there was a line such as “xxxx, she thought to herself” in the middle of dialogue. I appreciate jumping into the head of POV characters, giving some insight as to what they’re seeing and feeling, etc. But Milan interjects almost every conversation with multiple instances of this, and it comes across as extremely clumsy and amateur. It breaks up the flow of dialogue, and often adds next to nothing to the situation. He also struggles with repeating himself – repeating phrases, repeating descriptions, repeating certain points. Perhaps the most egregious is his use of simile – multiple times, he compared falling soldiers to other falling items – namely describing one as dropped cutlery, and another as, I believe (not going to go back and find exact quote), “like pots and pans being dropped off a castle wall”. OUCH.
There were some other cringeworthy moments, such as one of the most vulgar sex scenes I’ve ever read. As with profanity, I have no aversion to smut in my books, as long as they’re used well. However, mentioning the female’s “bush” at least 4 times during a sex scene is just awkward at best, and really terribly written at worst. I also wonder if Victor Milan has either had sex with a woman, or knows women – his main female character is permanently horny, almost voraciously so, and in the aforementioned sex scene she orgasmed explosively within the first few seconds of their sexual encounter, and the orgasm lasted throughout their sexual escapade. I actually said “What the hell?” aloud after that scene – was like a teenager who had only ever read smut on the internet had written it.
All of these components add up quickly to form the basis for a very dull, disappointing book. One with a lot of potential, ideas and concept wise, but lacking sorely in execution. I struggled to find positive things to say about it – it’s far from the worst book I’ve ever read, but it made up for that gap by being such a letdown, such a missed opportunity. The writing was sub-par, and the decisions that went into the book even more so. The Dinosaur Lords had churned up a lot of hype and excitement, but in the end, left the reader with little satisfaction.