It was the best thing that ever happened to him.
It was his god’s blessing.
It was hell.
Vell was content to be a warrior in the Thunderbeast tribe who stayed behind on the hunt to guard the camp.
But then something alien awakened deep within him, the spirit of a behemoth that he could not control. With it came attacks from the sky, visitors from far lands, and a mysterious command from their ancestral totem: Find the living. And this time, no one was going to let him just stay behind.
I learned from reader reviews on Amazon.com that this Dungeons & Dragons novel somehow concerned dinosaurs. It turns out the prehistoric reptiles are central to the plot, although Son of Thunder is more standard fantasy fare than paleo-fiction. Ironically, the book reminded me of the 1985 movie Baby, Secret of the Lost Legend, which shares some similar plot elements.
Vell the Brown is a young barbarian who isn’t much of a barbarian – he would rather stay home and guard the children and the old folks rather than join the men when they’re out raping and pillaging or whatever. However, during a religious ceremony, the skeleton of the tribe’s totem animal – which is some kind of sauropod dinosaur – comes to life and gives Vell the ability to morph into a dinosaur whenever he is threatened or angry. The dead beast also cryptically tells the tribe to “find the living.” The tribe takes this to mean that they’re supposed to find the last living dinosaurs in their part of the world. (Dinosaurs still live in Chult, but that’s far away.) Meanwhile, a young sorceress in another part of the world gets the same message, and she sets out to join the barbarians in their quest.
Complicating things is an evil wizard and his pretty young assassin, who learn about the living dinosaurs and a powerful artifact that may be keeping them alive.
The main problem with Son of Thunder is it tries to cram too much story into a single novel. Readers follow not one but two quests to find the dinosaurs, and Leeder is much more interested in his villains than his heroes, with the former seemingly getting more screen time. In fact, the author spends very little time fleshing out the personalities of the good guys, having obviously put more effort into the bad guys. The epic quest to find the dinosaurs is a rushed effort, quickly skipping from scene to scene with no build up of mystery or suspense. And, as usual in these types of novels, the climax is a big battle between the forces of good and the armies of evil.
The book also is dripping with obscure Forgotten Realms history, so much so that anyone not already familiar with the campaign setting probably won’t have any idea what’s going on. Then again, I doubt anyone else would pick up this book.
The dinosaurs here are just another fantastic creature populating the setting of the novel, and despite the focus on them, Son of Thunder isn’t concerned about paleontology. I included the novel on this blog simply to be comprehensive.