With rhino horns fetching thousands of dollars on the black market, South African park rangers have their hands full protecting the beasts, and the tourists as well, but in the end it’s not the rangers who save the family, but their own courage and resourcefulness, and a wily old lion who seems to know who his friends are.
The opening of Mark DaSilva’s THE LOST SAFARI begins slowly as it tries too hard to put information into dialogue, forcing the characters to explain things to each other instead of engaging in natural conversation. It might have been better just to narrate, without expecting Mom and Dad to play instant experts on everything African, or read from the brochure. The family becomes annoying very quickly. Mom and Dad pick at each other; Jake is the typical bored teenager. They seem like stock “ugly American” characters, each trying to score cheap points on the others. This was no doubt intentional—they do eventually change—but by then the reader may have lost all patience with them.
Having the characters explain things to each other also undermines their intelligence. For instance, 15-year-old Jake apparently doesn’t know what a poacher is, and only recognizes gunshots and helicopter sounds because he’s heard them in his video game—again, part of the point, but it could have been presented in a more believable, elegant way. Some of the dialogue also felt inappropriate for what ought to be a children’s book.
When the action in THE LOST SAFARI does pick up, it barrels along nicely. The family is stranded all night in the wilderness and confronted by sensational dangers at every turn—baboons, lions, tigers, hyenas, and crocodiles. Of course, the deadliest species, Man, shows up as well to provide the biggest challenge. The introduction of Attila, the lion, a grizzled veteran of the wilderness, was surprising, warm, and uniquely satisfying. Africa’s beauty and danger seem to be wrapped up in him. The book’s condemnation of poaching is strong; it definitely has its heart in the right place and is a good introduction to Africa for younger readers.
THE LOST SAFARI is a somewhat exciting African adventure that starts off slowly, but then barrels along nicely to a satisfying end.
~Dave Eisenstark for IndieReader