Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author. Opinions expressed are my own.
- Author: James R. Hughes
- Available Now
- Synopsis: Shunned as a pariah for receiving no gift at the religious ceremony, Longcrest falls into the shadow of his younger brother, Bravehorn, who has been named the Chosen One— destined to save the dinosaur herd from impending destruction.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.1 Peter 4:10-12
This is a longer passage than I usually use, but it perfectly sums up two key elements of the novel: the distribution of spiritual gifts for the benefit of the herd and the coming danger that the dinosaurs are anticipating.
There is a lot of strong Christian symbolism with a straightforward allegorical interpretation, although the spiritual content does not directly map to all of the elements inspired by the Christian faith. It’s clear that the author takes his cues from his faith, but definitely puts his own spin on things. For example, the character that I would interpret as the “Christ character,” in a typical allegory, has grandsons.
Sacrificial love is a big theme, and there are multiple references to the characters’ faith. The characters believe in Aeneas, the Creator, who is in control. Aeneas gives each dinosaur a spiritual gift (there are five) that will benefit the herd. Upon dying, the dinosaurs join Aeneas in the High Skies. However, there is also a herd, the Shadows, who are empowered with evil powers called Haze. Harrow, leader of the Shadows, is a spiritual being who somewhat corresponds to the devil. Redemption, grace and forgiveness are powerful elements in the book, as well.
With the “one brother chosen and one brother giftless” theme, I also thought of Jacob and Esau, although I don’t think those characters correspond directly with the dinosaurs.
What I Liked
I have never been particularly interested in dinosaurs. In fact, I think I am generally less interested in dinosaurs than the average person. With that said, I was very impressed with the author’s knowledge of dinosaurs. There are multiple pages of dinosaur descriptions, at the beginning of the book, referencing their size and behaviors. While I didn’t read this entire section, I think it can be helpful as an educational resource, along with a paleontology unit.
Aeneas is written as a very personal god, who speaks directly to the dinosaurs, and to whom the dinosaurs can speak. In this sense, I feel that the book can be an evangelical tool. It showcases the good news that God WANTS us to know Him and talk to Him. That’s something I am delighted to see in a book for young readers.
The characterization of/interaction with Harrow reminded me of Lord Lunacy in Archives of Anthropos. I liked this because that series is one of my favorite allegories.
I really liked Longcrest and I was so glad that he did not turn out to be like Cain (I was concerned about that, early on in the story). I actually found myself thinking about him, after I finished the story. Crugor was such a sweetheart, too.
I appreciated that this is a book that will appeal to boys and girls, alike, since I recently learned that we need more books for Christian boys!
Overall, I really enjoyed the spiritual content and themes, which conveyed powerful truths.
I felt a bit confused by the classification of the book as YA. While I am definitely a proponent of books that are wholesome, for teenagers, this book felt more like a children’s novel, to me. The writing felt a bit simplistic for a YA novel, and there were some notable similarities to existing stories/plots. For me, one of the major plot elements was easy to predict, which felt more like a kid’s book.
There are also STRONG similarities with the Warrior cats books, among other inspirations, and I would have liked to have seen a bit more originality.
A character asks, “What in Harrow’s name,” which I felt strange about, but I can see that it corresponds to the phrase “what the devil.”
Spiritual themes are strong, but it’s worth mentioning that content/characters are fictionalized (not a 100% correspondence to scriptural connections).
The book bears some strong similarities to existing kids’ books. However, this make it a good Christian alternative to, say, the Warrior cats books, which were some of my very favorites, as a kid. I really liked the emphasis on God’s closeness, which is a strong commendation. This is a book I’d recommend for kids or as a family read-aloud.