In my real life, away from Kinderlit, I would probably never pick up a book like Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo; I’m not one for alternate histories, and the dinosaurs-at-The Battle of Waterloo premise comes off, to me, as profoundly gimmicky. (Profoundly gimmicky, incidentally, is why I generally avoid alternate histories.)
Essentially, this is the story of that fabled battle, but in another dimension, where dinosaurs roamed the Earth alongside man. Europe is full of smaller grade dinosaurs, such as raptors, which make the forests treacherous; North America is unsettled, over-run as it is by dino-giants, like T-Rex.
Napoleon, whose French army is battling against the coalition forces, headed by the British and the Prussians, is struggling. Struggling, that is, until he unleashes his greatest weapons: Giant dinos, imported from the Americas and weaponized. Of course, there’s one person (why is there never more than one?) who can stop him: A teen conjurer with a penchant for soothing dinosaurs. Can Napoleon stop him before he can stop Napoleon?
Seasoned author Brian Falkner (he of the Recon Team Angel series) handles all of the tricky bits with aplomb, and his ability to build tension is really quite marvelous; it builds to such a degree, in fact, that it feels at certain points that it might rip the book apart.
The set-up might be a bit of a tough sell for reluctant readers, or those intimidated by history with which they aren’t familiar, and the dialogue could feel a bit stilted to those same readers, as Falkner endeavours (and succeeds) to capture an early 19th century pattern of speech. Additionally, despite the ferocious looking “saur” being ridden by a French soldier on the front cover of the book, this is not a mile-a-minute actionfest. (It becomes one, eventually, but the build up is quite long.) The adventurous, seasoned young reader will be well-rewarded, and I would be unsurprised to discover that Battlesaurus, Rampage at Waterloo has become a favourite for many.
Not a book built to draw for reluctant readers, no, but a well-constructed, imaginative slice of world alternative history, and proof that Brian Falkner, like a French soldier astride a majestic T-Rex, is a force with which to be reckoned.