Magdalys and company return in this sequel to Dactyl Hill Squad (2018).
On their way with their pteranodon to New Orleans to rescue Magdalys’ injured Union soldier brother, the squad falls in with the all-black Louisiana Native Guard (that they’re not Native American is commented on), led by Gen. Sheridan. Secrets soon start to spill: The sole adult in their crew, thespian Cymbeline, is actually a Union spy, and when Sheridan discovers Magdalys is a dino-wrangler, he tries to inveigle her into Union service. Magdalys feels betrayed by Cymbeline, wants to prioritize her brother, and understandably doesn’t trust Sheridan—but that doesn’t save the squad from getting pulled into battle. The rapid pace is akin to the first installment’s but smoother, and as the squad navigates peril after peril, the supporting characters come into their own. As Afro-Cuban Magdalys recognizes how putting her power in Union hands could help enslaved black people, she vacillates. Showing great respect for his readers, Older doesn’t pull any punches. Amaya, who is Apache, points out the irony of fighting for people who stole Native land. Later, Magdalys grapples with the unpleasant truth that (most?) Northerners would happily keep black people enslaved in exchange for an end to the war—even Gen. Grant himself. Readers will be relieved that in a cruelly unjust world she gets a happy ending, though it’s clear her story is far from over.
Blisteringly paced, thought-provoking adventure. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)