Review: The Deadlands: Hunted by Skye Melki-Wegner

Deadlands: Hunted by Skye Melki Wegner cover shows the silhouette of a tyrannosaur head partly filled with a jungle of plants. The dinosaur's teeth hold the word hunted.

The Deadlands: Hunted (The Deadlands #1)
Skye Melki-Wegner
Henry Holt & Co.
Published April 4, 2023

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About The Deadlands: Hunted

Wings of Fire meets Jurassic Park in this action-adventure middle grade debut series by Skye Melki-Wegner about five outcasts ― and former enemies ― who are the only hope to save their warring kingdoms from impending doom.

“My favorite middle grade book of the year.” ― New York Times -bestselling author Amie Kaufman

Battle rages between the dinosaur kingdoms of Cretacea.

When the Fallen Star struck, it brought death and despair, ash and toxic rain. But some dinosaurs survived . . . and were changed. Their minds grew alert. They learned to speak. To dream. To wage war.

As the two remaining dinosaur kingdoms fight for territory, Eleri, the disgraced son of a prince, is exiled from his home for saving an enemy soldier. Banished to the merciless Deadlands, a terrifying desert full of tar pits, poisonous gas, and ruthless carnivores, he must join forces with a group of questionable allies―including the enemy soldier he saved―to avoid becoming prey.

When Eleri and his fellow exiles discover the horrific truth behind the war, the unlikely heroes must do all they can to save their kingdoms from a lurking predator. . . and a secret plot that might destroy them all.

Deadlands: Hunted on Goodreads

My Review

This is such a clever book! I super enjoyed the fact that all the main characters are dinosaurs. It was like WARRIORS, but all dinos. The setup of the conflicts and lore about the herds, alliances, and kingdoms was woven into the story and introduced at a nice pace.

The story follows both Eleri, an oryctodromeus, and Zyre, an anurognathid, though more chapters are told from Eleri’s point of view. I really enjoyed both of them as characters. Zyre observes silently, trying to make some hard moral choices and needing to survive as a small animal.

Eleri is a tunneling dinosaur who longs to be a storyteller. He believes that his herd doesn’t love or value him because he isn’t a gifted warrior. What it takes him a long time to realize, though, is that he is a gifted strategist. I loved the way he interacted with the other characters, especially Tortha, the triceratops, and Sorielle, the ankylosaur. Tortha focuses on her identity as a warrior, and Sorielle has a mind for math, so altogether, they make a great team.

The beginning pages have a list of the types of dinosaurs, descriptions of them, and what alliances they’re part of, if any. I still had to do an image search for some of them because I wasn’t sure what they looked like. I kind of wish there had been line drawings of each type or something included with the descriptions. But thankfully, a quick internet search gave me what I was looking for.

All in all, I thought this book was really nicely done. I’ve got a review copy of the second book, so I’ll be reading that one pretty soon, and I’m looking forward to it! Readers who enjoy books featuring animals as main characters should definitely check out this series.

Deadlands: Hunted on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

All characters are dinosaurs.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
The Sauropods (long-necked dinos) have a kind of spirituality and speak in a stilted way. They are storytellers, and the lore about them is that they used their long necks and tails to sweep stars across the skies.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. References to battle scenes. Some brief descriptions of predators or rivals attacking the main characters. The descriptions are not overly graphic.

Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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