Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.
But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.
As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?
I was really intrigued by the Romeo and Juliet meets Indiana Jones comparison so I thought I would give this one a try. Romeo and Juliet retellings have been hit or miss for me but I am a huge fan of Indiana Jones so I had hope. I definitely appreciated Kenneth Oppel doing something different with this retellings and the historical setting. I don’t have a huge interest in archaeology but it was written in a way that was still interesting to me.
The Romeo and Juliet aspect came into play as the two main characters were the children of rival archaeologists searching for the same dinosaur. Rachel was described as plain and very serious. It took a while for me to feel like I knew her character. Sam was much more open and I liked almost right away. It was interesting to see these two opposites navigate their way around and with each other. There were times when the romance between them felt a little forced but it also made sense because it felt like they wanted it to work between them more than letting it happen naturally or taking a chance that they might not work.
The setting and the rivalry between the families were my favourite parts of this book. I love westerns and historical novels so the setting was perfect for me. The rivalry between the families was fun to read. It wasn’t an easy book to read. The time period meant the characters were exposed to sexism and racism. Rachel’s father especially was not an easy person to read about whenever he appeared but it was realistic for that time period.
Overall, I really enjoyed the way the archaeology was brought into the book in a way where someone with very little knowedge about it could still understand what was going on. I didn’t feel like I got lost in the details and that was something I could appreciate.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.