How to Tame a Triceratops is Will Dare’s debut novel and is due for release in April of next year. It’s a fantasy chapter book, set in a world where people live alongside dinosaurs. While the novel is aimed at pre-teen readers, it can be readily enjoyed by anyone with a love of giant, scaly reptiles. It’s also the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no release date has been given for its sequel.
Josh Sanders wants nothing more than to be a lone dino rider. He loves hearing stories about his hero Terrordactyl Bill – the toughest rider to ever roam the Lost Plains. The only problem is that Josh lives on an iguanodon ranch. His free time is spent herding the smelly herbivores on his ancient gallimimus, Plodder. He knows he’ll never become a hero unless his parents buy him something far faster.
When his teacher announces that there is to be a dinosaur race, Josh knows that this is his chance. He’ll never be allowed to enter on Plodder but his parents are trusting him to take a few iguanodons to market. It’s the perfect chance for him to swap them for something faster. He can’t believe his luck when he’s approached by a man who seems eager to trade them for his huge triceratops. Josh knows that if he enters the race on such a powerful creature, he’s bound to win.
However, he quickly comes to realise that the seller may not have been entirely honest with him. The triceratops, who is called Charge, is wilful and disobedient. He won’t allow himself to be ridden and has no intention of following instructions. With the race only days away, Josh knows that he has to use all of his knowledge about dinosaurs to tame Charge. If he doesn’t, he’ll never prove to his family and friends that he’s a true dino rider.
As you might be able to tell from the description, How to Tame a Triceratops is not a young adult novel. I’d actually recommend it more for readers between the age of seven and ten. However, you may have noticed from my photos that I love dinosaurs – I have ever since I was a little kid – and so I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to read and review a forthcoming dinosaur release. Thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Netgalley for providing me with this advanced copy!
The book itself is really good fun and young dinosaur fans will just eat it up. Its short, simple and incredibly easy to read. On top of the story itself, the novel is packed with illustrations. I don’t normally comment on this kind of things in my reviews but in this case, I feel that they do add to the story. Not only are there plenty of cartoony sketches that illustrate Josh and Charge’s adventure but there are also pages taken from Josh’s personal “dino rider handbook”. This is the notebook where he jots down all of his discoveries and these entries are some of the funniest additions to the story, really adding extra character to an already hilarious tale.
The story itself takes a lot from Cressida Cowell’s popular How to Train Your Dragon series. While I wouldn’t say it’s a rip-off, the two stories do share a similar tone and are likely to appeal to the same sort of reader. Dare’s novel switches out the dragons for dinosaurs, becoming a great hero for becoming a lone ranger, and the Viking settlement for the Wild West. This setting does suit the style of the story very well with dinosaurs slipping into everyday life for settlers surprisingly easily. Stegosauruses replace cart horses, microraptors carry the mail and huge predators roam the wilderness just outside of Trihorn’s borders.
The plot of the novel is simple and easy to follow. As the book is only 128 pages long (including the illustrations) it wastes no energy on side plots and instead focuses wholly on Josh learning about, preparing for and taking part in the race. For me, this is the only place where it fell down a little. While this may appeal to a less-confident reader, it did feel a bit as though it was lacking in substance.
Dare spends very little time showing Josh training Charge. While the reader is told that Charge won’t allow himself to be ridden, this isn’t actually shown on page. I felt that the novel could have done with detailing a few more examples of ways that Josh has tried and failed to get the triceratops to listen to him. As it stood, he seems to fall upon the correct way with very little effort. Yet the book is at least streamlined and is incredibly funny in places. I think it’s bound to get a laugh out of any reader.
The characters in the book were all vibrant and likeable. It’s easy to empathise with Josh as his enthusiasm is totally endearing. At some point in our lives, we’ve all aspired to be more like our heroes and therefore can relate to Josh’s attempts to be more like Terrordactyl Bill. Although T-Bill has a dangerous life style, this worship does have a positive influence on Josh as it encourages him to always try his hardest and be brave in the face of danger.
Yet it’s the dinosaurs that steal the show. As the focus of the story, this is especially true of Charge. He’s just so energetic, like a big dog. Of course, triceratops weighed over six tonnes and could easily flatten anything in their path but that just adds to his appeal. Charge is big and loveable, quickly becoming a firm and loyal companion for Josh. I really look forward to seeing what kind of adventures the two of them get into in Josh’s continuing attempts to become a professional dino rider.
Apologies for the brief review but I don’t have much more to say. How to Tame a Triceratops is short but sweet. It’s an entertaining read that’s sure to appeal to dinosaur fans of all ages. I can’t wait to see where Dare is going to take this series next and will certainly review the next instalment as soon as I can get my hands on it!
How to Tame a Triceratops is due for release on 1st April and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk