The Dinosaur Knights
Release Date: July 5, 2016
If the battle of Pelennor Fields number among some of your favorite scenes in JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, or if you are gripped by George RR Martin’s warfare in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” epic fantasy series (or were swept away by the recent Battle of the Bastards on HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation of that series), then you need to add Victor Milán’s “The Dinosaur Lords” novels to your fantasy library.
The Dinosaur Knights, the second book of Mr. Milán’s imaginative series (to be released on July 5), picks up where the first book, 2015’s The Dinosaur Lords left off. We return to the medieval world of Paradise, much like our ancestral Europe, except that dinosaurs missed our history’s mass extinction. They roam the land along with more conventional wildlife, but have also been cultivated and even domesticated by man, serving as beasts of burden, war machines, and even as exalted mounts for the glittering knights who serve the Empire as well as the various kingdoms elbowing for prominence under the Emperor’s reign.
Once again we are reunited with Imperial Princess Melodía Delgao and her servant Pilar, now branded as a traitor and on the run from the scheming (and lecherous) Lord Falk von Hornberg, who has ingratiated himself into a position of power at the right hand of Felipe, Emperor of Nuevaropa and Melodía’s own father. Her flight brings her to the town of Providence, where she finds refuge with the Garden of Truth and Beauty, a religious sect that follows the precepts of the Creator Bella (one of the eight mighty Creators, who is also the patron of The Companions of Our Lady of the Mirror, a chivalric order headed by the Emperor’s Captain-General, Compte Jaume dels Flors, the Emperor’s nephew and Melodía’s betrothed).
Although the Garden values peace and tranquility, Providence is beset by strife, having come under attack by neighboring principalities. In an effort to stave off these hostilities, the City Council had employed what they believed to be an experienced mercenary, Captain Karyl, and his companion, storyteller and minstrel (and dinosaur master) Rob Korrigan. Yet the Captain is no mere mercenary; he is legendary Voyvod Karyl Vladevich Bogomirskiy, one of the greatest knights of the age, believed to have died when his White River Legion was routed by Compte Jaume’s troops.
All these narratives (and more) swirl in story lines encompassing treachery, valor, deceit and cunning, until they are overshadowed by an even greater threat: the return of a Grey Angel, a mystical being of immense power fashioned by the Creators to purge the world of sin and wickedness.
It’s a huge tale, full of political machinations, religious fanaticism, moral complexity, magic, hilarity, depravity, friendship, tragic loss, bravery, sacrifice – and dinosaurs!
I was especially taken with Melodía’s story line, as she moves from a pampered royal to a young woman determined to find her way based on her own abilities rather than Imperial entitlement. Her growth, borne both by tragedy and triumph, is winding and astutely handled, especially when her naive best of intentions prove disastrous and tragically humbling. Karyl, as well, continues to be a fascinating character, bound up in both modest practicality and mysticism. His highest moment, which comes at the end of the book, is as inspiring as any fantasy hero’s courageous stand.
But where The Dinosaur Knights truly excels is in the battle scenes. These are no mere overviews, or a few pages then a fade to black, but taunt, prolonged, detailed battles which encompass not only pages of text, but chapters, between combatants both modest and vast, on foot, mounted, blunt and finessed alike. Strategies, campaigns, maneuverings, squadron bravado and spine tingling individual combat are told in exquisite, sometimes grotesque, pulse pounding detail. With dinosaurs!
I will admit to being challenged when I read The Dinosaur Lords, the first book in the series. The sheer volume of characters, all with multiple names and titles, was daunting, as was determining loyalties and placement within the sweeping landscape – both geographically and politically. Plus, there was no indication, until the cliffhanger of an ending, that this initial volume was indeed the start of a series of books. Happily, neither of these challenges is an issue in The Dinosaur Knights, as they main players are firmly ensconced in the action, and the nature of the continuing narrative has been firmly established. I found The Dinosaur Knights to be quite entertaining, even if at times I was torn between enjoying the story as a lively fantasy and reacting to the grim, visceral testament to the barbarity of mankind, despite the fanciful world in which it is set. (Definitely not an epic fantasy series for youngsters, or those of tender sensitivities!)
After the long exposition of The Dinosaur Lords, The Dinosaur Knights settles in and sinks its teeth into a massive story, ably imagined and stoutly written. If you like your epic fantasy to have an ample helping of battle prowess along with the intrigue and romance, then The Dinosaur Knights should definitely be in your TBR pile.
And besides – it has dinosaurs!
~ Sharon Browning