I feel like I tend to skew a little non-fiction heavy on this blog. While I suppose that may describe the majority of dinosaur literature, the fiction aisle has plenty to offer as well, and arguably influences people’s views on dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts just as much if not more than books such as the Ultimate Dinopedia. Most dinosaur fiction tends to fall into the easy reader category, such as How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight and other books in its series, which often focus more on exploring concepts for children than telling much of a story. Every so often, though, one comes across a proper storybook or even novels featuring fantastic beasts of a bygone era, which always makes for an entertaining read.
In that latter vein, I present to you Jeff Norton’s newly published Dino Knights! I recently received a copy in advance of its June 6th publication so I could participate in publisher Awesome Reads‘s “blog tour” as part of the promotional campaign. Set in the world of “Panterra”, in which dinosaurs exist among a flourishing medieval society, this book will appeal to any kid that enjoys a good chapter book, especially those that enjoy fantasy and prehistoric life.
The plot chronicles the story of Henry Fairchild, a lowly stableboy responsible for caring for the domesticated dinosaurs of the Brecklan estate who dreams of becoming a member of the elite Dino Knights. After sneaking off to follow the Knights as they escort Lord Harding and Lady Anwyn through the woods, he proves his worth by saving the entourage from a rampaging Tyrannosaurus rex. Henry manages to befriend the Rex, earning him the respect of Lord Harding, who enlists Henry to begin training as a Dino Knight with his newfound companion. This proves timely, as the treacherous Sir Neville Avingdon plans to unleash a surprise attack on Brecklan with his pterosaur airforce…
I’ll avoid spoiling the rest of the book, but it proves an enjoyable rollicking adventure that kids are sure to enjoy. Norton actually found the inspiration for the book in playing with his son Torin, as they mixed toy dinosaurs and knights together and dreamt up stories about them. I rather enjoyed the book myself. As a relatively easy chapter book, it keeps the reader entertained throughout. I did find execution of a few plot points a little perfunctory, primarily Henry’s relationship with dinosaurs. Henry has the ability to near instantly gains the trust of even rampaging beasts, leaving me somewhat confused as to whether I should chock this up to his skills as a stableboy, or if this meant he had some sort of unstated mystical connection with dinosaurs. It’s a relatively minor point though, and not one that would stand out to its target audience.
Subtle, silhouette-style illustrations by George Ermos grace the front of the book, as well as the beginning of each chapter. I always appreciate a few illustrations, however simple, to spruce up the pages of a novel. They generally look relatively good considering the art style, though I note the presence of apparently unfeathered Utahraptors and a few chimerical pterosaurs in a couple of the illustrations. (On a related note, I did appreciate that the author explicitly mentions the feathers of Nothronychus and Ornithomimus within the story!)
I recommend Dino Knights to any young enthusiasts of dinosaurs and fantasy. It’s perfect for anyone who enjoys a sitting back with a light chapter book, and with various hints at the wider world of Panterra, I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty more of the Dino Knights in future books to come!