I picked this up after seeing a Facebook post from Patrick. I’ll admit I was drawn in by two things.
I’ve seen Patrick’s beautiful covers on various writing forums and Facebook groups before and his comments and advice for aspiring authors is always so wonderful, so I wasn’t surprised to see The Dinosaur Hunters having an equally intriguing cover – and besides, who doesn’t love a story involving a dinosaur?!
Set on an alternative Mars in the early part of the 20th century, we follow Harriet George as she embarks on an adventure to help her hapless brother-in-law, a police inspector, solve the crime of the jewel thief known as The Glass Phantom.
First off, this was a delight. There is a steampunk and space opera feel to this MG/YA novella that initially sounds like it might not work, but actually Patrick has managed to balance both of these niche genres well and the alternate history of the world(s) relating to 1815 is an interesting read. I love steampunk and regency periods and so was immediately drawn to what route Patrick would take with the history and story.
With the first 10% of the novella we are introduced to our feisty protagonist Harriet George and learn her backstory and agency that drives her forward, while learning about the geography and history of the worlds by way of seamless world-building that feels natural and in no way an ‘info dump’.
The story progresses quickly, and I’ll sum it up: Harriet accompanies her police inspector brother-in-law onto an airship in the hope that they’ll prevent the jewel thief from stealing a necklace.
Spoiler: they don’t. The necklace is stolen and so the ‘who-dun-it’ unravels as the airship lands in dinosaur country and the ‘hunt’ starts – for both the thief and the dinosaurs!
I won’t spoil the story – but we have multiple suspects, twists, murder, double-crossing and a great satisfying ending.
I’ve missed reading novellas, and this was a great return to the shorter length fiction. I went into this getting the immediate feel that this would be a series involving Harriet and wasn’t disappointed. She’s a fabulous, well-rounded teenage sleuth with the potential to mature and grow. This is a credit to Patrick – he’s allowed himself to write a character that’s layered but also fun and relatable.
I’d definitely read more in Harriet’s world – especially as a quick read to escape the doldrums and stresses of life.
Most importantly, this novella has me interested in Patrick’s adult fantasy offerings as he’s a talented writer.
Patrick Samphire is the author of the adult fantasy novel SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD, as well as the middle grade novels SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS. He has also published around twenty short stories and novellas. Patrick has been writing stories since he was fourteen years old and thought it would be a good way of avoiding having to sit through English lessons at school. He was absolutely convinced that he would be famous by the time he was eighteen, but sadly, even infamy has eluded him. He lives in Wales, surrounded by mountains, with his wife, their sons, and their cat. When he's not writing, he designs websites and ebooks. He will now stop talking about himself in the third person.