Author: Brian Falkner
Genre: Young adult
Rating: 3.5 / 5
This is the second book I read for Dinovember (which turned into Dinocember for me, since I wasn’t able to pick this one up from the library until the very end of November and wasn’t able to start on it until even later), and it was definitely my favorite of the two (I had too many issues with The Lost World). After I finished it I was like, I don’t know if I have a good template for rating this book. The title is awesome. The cover is kiiind of amazing. Also, Napoleon’s been breeding dinosaurs and he brought them to the Battle of Waterloo??? So I feel like this book had a lot to live up to. At the same time I feel like my expectations were on the lower side of things. I mean, the premise…it makes everyone laugh when I tell them about it.
The dialog was probably the weakest part, especially in the beginning. Maybe it actually got better as the book went on, maybe I just got used to it. The writing is nothing to call home about, but it is a young adult book and I think I (like most people who pick up this book) was in it for the concept; I wasn’t exactly expecting Donna Tartt, you know? And I think it was really well executed for what it was.
I thought that the way the author handles gender was fairly good. I was a little worried; taking a glance at a low rating before I read the book, the reviewer had said the author drops “sexist bon mots” and another reviewer mentioned the same line in the book—“She begins to cry, a woman’s trick to get her way when reason and logic prevailed.” And yeah, I agree, that sentiment is definitely objectionable; however, this is from the point of view of a teenage son whose crying mother is trying to keep him safe by telling him what to do, and a couple short paragraphs later we end the chapter with “It only occurs to him much later that maybe he has misunderstood the tears.” I get the feeling the author wasn’t endorsing the “women are crying manipulators” viewpoint, but rather that’s what this male teen from 1815 thought, and even he eventually comes around to realizing he was wrong to do so.
Unfortunately the book is very male-centric. Almost all the characters are male, including the two main anchors of the story. The story is a boy’s story from a boy’s point of view in a boy’s world and at times it does not really seem to give female characters full personhood; however, it is a little more complex than that too. There is a female character who is a bit more developed, and she’s clever, good in a pinch, honest, can be kind as well as standoffish, and the hero of the book considers her to be braver than he is—and we get to see her being pretty rad, making a seemingly hopeless charge at a huge dinosaur, scuffling with a smaller one, and what’s especially good to see in a young adult novel, standing up to her shady love interest. The book also implies one of its female characters in engaged in sex work and says that “there was no shame in what she was doing” and has the main character verbally assert this belief as well. So all in all, yeah it’s not super feminist or anything, but it’s so easy to find a book I think is worse.
I am often disappointed by books that are in a series; this time, though, I was happy because it’ll give me something to look forward to for next Dinovember.