I love a good fantasy book, and I love dinosaurs. So what’s not to love when you mix them together?
That’s why I picked up The Lost Castle the first in a series called The Chronicles of Krangor written by Michael Pryor, which is a fantasy novel where all the characters are dinosaurs of one sort or another (bet you didn’t see that coming?).
It is a children’s book, so I wasn’t expecting it to be super duper complicated and just really a bit of fun to break up the weeping muddy explosion that is the Malazan universe.
The story centers around three young saurs who uncover the evil Queen’s diabolical plan to rule the world using magic. Awesome. We’ve got dinosaurs, an evil queen, and world domination goin’ on. Mainly we follow Adalon (on the cover, I assume) a young noble and promises to exact justice on the Queen for the death of his father.
One thing that always surprises me about children’s books (although it says more about the kinds of books I read, I suspect, than children’s books) is how quickly the plot progresses. We are immediately thrown into the thick of things and the plot progresses at a compelling pace.
However, I do think that this sacrifices something of the prose as a rather inordinate amount of the time (not all the time, but just enough that I noticed it) we are being told what is happening more often than not rather than being shown. I understand that this is also partly to do with tailoring to the audience, as much as I like to imagine I’m still a kid at heart, I know that I have grown up. (Damn you Peter Pan!)
One thing that I did find a bit odd was the description of the saurs themselves. The details were never thoroughly detailed and we are only offered snippets of the saurs in any one paragraph. I guess that a reason for this is that Michael Pryor has devised a world where the dinosaurs have evolved and moved away from the petty classification of us mere humans. Instead of (what I assumed to be a descendant of the iguanadon) we are told they are ‘Clawed Ones’, or instead of some sort of Tyrannosaurus Rex we hear of the ‘Toothed One’. At its face I think this is a good way to try and show what the characters are without bogging the young readership down with too many details. But I did also find that it left a lot to the imagination, which sometimes left me thinking “Oh, maybe they don’t look like I thought they did…”. Although I should qualify this that I was a massive dinosaur nerd when I was a kid (who am I kidding, ‘was’?) so maybe I shouldn’t wait for Pryor to tell me if a character is a Stegasaurus or a Kentrosaurus….
But moving past that and my own geekery, the characters are interesting and there is danger abound and not just the danger of the Queen’s guards that have been set on those she wants eliminated. The three friends we follow (each a different kind of saur) all have their own personalities and Pryor does well to bring them out and show the value of friendship and teamwork throughout.
So if you like dinosaurs and fantastical stories and you fancy a quick read, or you know a suitable youngling (no, I don’t know why I phrased it like that either) then I would recommend this book. The world is ripe for the picking and Pryor sets himself up for an adventurous romp over the trilogy.