Skip to main content

Book Review - Thunder Falls - A Dinotopia Novel by Scott Ciencin

Buying, trading & selling collectibles since 2004. Amateur poet, writer and artist. Video game, miniature & collectible card enthusiast.


Thunder Falls is a Dinotopia digest novel aimed at young adults (mostly towards young boys). It takes place in the world of DInotopia created by James Gurney. His book A Land Apart From Time is filled with beautiful watercolor art of a fantasy island where the dinosaurs survived extinction.

Gurney’s DInotopia was created with rich world-building. I don’t think it was initially intended to be a series and quite the phenomenon that it turned out to be. The artist seemed to just have a great imagination and vision of a utopian world where Dinosaurs and humans live together in relative peace (Excluding carnivores that live only in some parts of the island).

Surprisingly this book came out before the Jurassic Park movie that popularized DInosaurs from the early 90’s. Although, it did come out two years after the book by Michael Crichton that the movie was based on. It might have been encouraged to publication because of the lesser adult popularization of dinosaurs. The Jurassic Park Movie is what brought kids to buy into A Land Apart From TIme. Atleast, that's how I remember finding this series as a kid.

With the success of DInotopia, a slew of spin offs were created. A TV show, a movie and audiobooks were created and are now hard to find for sale. More popular were a bunch of alternate stories by Gurney and then the small golden Dinotopia DIgest books for young adults still show up in Thrift Stores and free book boxes even today.

There are five spin off books associated with Gurney and then sixteen dIgest books that were Gurney allowed other authors to expand on his world. I am still slowly collecting all the small gold books and almost have a complete collection, paying less than $2 a book at any given time I manage to find one.

Thunder Falls is the Story of two boys, one a dinosaur named fleetfeet and the other a human Joseph. They are rambunctious, adventurous and bombastic boys that compete with each other a lot. They live in the Waterfall City and study under an old Dinosaur sage named Steelgaze.

The story is a classic adventure story with a clear goal to save others from harm. They travel to many places in Dinotopia like the Time Towers and Sauropolis on a quest given to them by their mentor. Their motivation to get his approval, which is not easily given by him. They boys get into all kinds of trouble along the way and slowly build as characters.

We also meet up with some characters from other Dinotopia Digest novels. Which is a strange degree of depth for a young adult novel. A “dolphinback” girl named Teegan arrives on the shores randomly in their travels and they rescue her and she kind of tags along the rest of the story. A dolphinback is someone that washes up on the island being guided by helpful dolphins to show. The seas around DInotopia are dangeround and crash any ship. So no one can leave or approach.

Teegan is not only a useless character but she is annoying and cringy at times. There are particularly cringy scenes where she tries to pretend she knows how to deescalate a situation and only always makes it worse. I think the only reason she was added to the story was to include a girl for marketing reasons. She isn’t even on the cover of the novel, which shows a boy in the boat that never rides in a boat in the story…

The banter between characters and the chase to get the MacGuffin is really good in this book, but it seems like they went to so many places so fast, they were not explained well enough. This is a short book, but it would be better to elaborately explain five places, instead of glancing over ten.

In the end, this book has a lot to say about boys growing to men, fellowship, leadership, extensionalist time theory and overall good moral behavior. The only thing besides Teegan that takes me out of the story is just how overly optimistic the world of Dinotopia is. It is nice to escape to a world where people get along, but it only makes me think about why they get along. There never seems to be any form of government or authority in these novels. Just kids running around like they are living in an anarchy where no one steals.

Overall, I liked this particular book in the series. The good far outweighs the bad. I may be looking too far into a young adult book, but it is just too interesting looking back on mooks I read as a kid.

Related Articles