Book Review: The Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milán
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Dinosaur Lords
Publisher: Tor (July 5, 2016)
Length: 448 pages
After my wonderful time with Victor Milán’s The Dinosaur Lords last year, I was understandably quite anxious to take on the sequel The Dinosaur Knights. However, there were some aspects with this follow-up that made me think the honeymoon period might be coming to an end. While I still love the epic-fantasy-meets-dinosaurs premise behind this series, admittedly the magic has faded somewhat due to this book’s uneven pacing and my growing dissatisfaction with a couple key characters.
The Dinosaur Knights continues the narrative from the first novel, following more or less the same handful of characters. In the Empire of Neuvaropa, a fictional land reminiscent of 14th century Europe, everything is in turmoil as rumors of a Grey Angel Crusade lead desperate men to form the most unlikely of alliances. We pick up Rob Korrigan’s story in the pacifist town of Providence, where the dinosaur master and his friend the famed noble captain Karyl Bogomirskiy are on trial for their perceived crimes against the adherents of the Garden of Truth and Beauty. At the same time, Princess Melodía and her maidservant Pilar are on the run after escaping imprisonment in the palace from the traitor Duke Falk von Hornberg. Eventually, their search for a safe haven leads them to Providence, where the fates of our major characters finally converge.
Meanwhile, Melodía’s lover and Karyl’s rival the Count Jaume dels Flors has joined forces with Emperor Felipe, hatching up an insane plan in the hopes of stopping the Creators’ Grey Angels from returning to Paradise. As war erupts across Neuvaropa, even those who just want to withdraw into peace and isolation are swept up in the rising wave of fear and madness. Worst of all, despite the extreme efforts by the Empire, there’s no telling whether the weapons of the Gods can even be stopped.
First, the good news: All this will ultimately culminate into one hell of a climax and ending. The bad news? I felt like I had to plod through more than 200 pages just to reach the point where things start getting interesting. I experienced little to no emotional engagement or suspense for the first half of the book, because it was impossible to shake the pesky feeling that the author was simply biding his time until he could maneuver all his characters into place, after which he can finally usher in the real action.
I was also disappointed with the characters, especially Princess Melodía, the only female POV in a cast dominated by men. She was my favorite from The Dinosaur Lords, and my one regret was not seeing her play a more significant role compared to Rob or Jaume. In a way, I got my wish granted, since Melodía received a lot more page time in The Dinosaur Knights, though I remain unconvinced this was actually an improvement. I didn’t like the way her character was repeatedly set up to be duped or to make mind-bogglingly bad decisions, undermining the hard won admiration she earned from the previous book. Then there was Rob, who frequently displays more respect and compassion towards his dinosaurs than his fellow human beings, which is especially apparent when it comes to his sexual objectification of women. I don’t usually let this kind of stuff get to me, but there were so many unnecessary allusions in this vein that even I couldn’t help but notice. With Melodía being almost useless for the first half of this novel, and Rob going from passably charming to downright insufferable, it was harder to engage with the characters this time around.
Happily, the dinosaurs are still amazing. For one thing, I just love the smattering of chapters we get from Shiraa the Allosaurus’ point of view. These brief glimpses into the dinosaur’s head can be a bit incongruous, but I can’t help but appreciate them for being one of the series’ cooler idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, Milán continues to excel at writing fantastic dino-battle scenes. They’re the real highlights of this novel, with the largescale combat sequences in the final section going a long way in making up for a humdrum first half.
This sequel also delves deeper into the lore of the Creators and their Grey Angels. With dinosaurs and angels, this series is really starting to build into something a lot more complex than I had anticipated when I first picked up The Dinosaur Lords. And while world-building continues to be a work-in-progress and we still don’t have all the answers, I admit I’m curious to see how all the puzzle pieces will fall into place.
It should come as no surprise then, that I still have plans on continuing this series. It’s true that I felt the second book slump with this one, but several promising developments in the last half of the book also give me hope that the third installment will pick things up again. Plus, there’s no dismissing those final climactic chapters, and with the book ending with the Empire of Neuvaropa in even more of a mess than when we started, I’m definitely keen on finding out where our characters will go from here.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Dinosaur Lords (Book 1)