Rewriting history, Oscar Cherian
Battlesaurus, written by author Brian Falkner, is an alternate history book focusing on a teenage boy named Willem, living in the French town of Gaillemarde, during the events surrounding the famous Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The alternate part of the history is the fact that dinosaurs, here known simply as “Saurs”, are alive and well on the European continent. But rather than being fearsome giants, they are treated as merely wild animals, because none found so far are much larger than a raptor. That all changes, however, as Napoleon Bonaparte, the exiled French emperor, has found himself in possession of a larger and much, much more dangerous Saur, a secret weapon which he intends to unleash during the Battle of Waterloo and claim victory.
But Gaillemarde isn’t too far from Waterloo itself, so the people there begin to suffer the side-effects of having a giant, prehistoric predator roaming the countryside. Then it is up to Willem to protect his village, even though few of the folk living there trust him, and protect the people he cares about most. Using his array of stage magician tricks and illusions, he will find a way to secure the safety of the ones around him and those in need of rescue.
Willem’s story is told in the third person, but through the narrator’s view, and the way the interaction between characters is described, Falkner gives us a literal village full of well written and well developed characters.
The story itself develops slowly to start with and becomes more and more tense as it progresses. The book reads the way a film would appear, with constant movement and physical description, so the reader’s mind’s eye has a perfect view of what the author intends them to see, while also focusing on the thoughts and dialogue of the characters, which brings an emotional aspect to the story that helps the reader form attachments to them. It does take a short while to get involved, but the story soon hooks you in and will keep you interested in the subject matter as it goes on.
The characters are skilfully written and, as a teenager myself, I can attest to the realism of the young adults in the book, while the world itself is also well described and well researched. The only major factual discrepancy is the existence of dinosaurs, but that is overlooked for the purpose of the book.
When I first saw the cover and read the premise, I thought it would be a juvenile story; with such a far-out base concept and a simplistic name, it seemed to be aimed at a rather young audience. But, while having a surreal concept, the author manages to produce an original work that greatly fits the genre of Young Adult fiction, with its themes and not-so-juvenile messages. While the book itself does seem to be written with something of a bias towards certain ideas, after actually having met the author myself, I do believe that these messages are simply Falkner’s way of communicating his own thoughts through a well-written main character, with otherwise believable motives and intentions.
Oscar Cherian is aged 14 and from Wellington.