Get ready to experience a rich and violent period in the American West with “THE BONE WARS” by Kathryn Lasky. Set in the late 1800s, this captivating tale takes you on a journey through the northern plains, where settlers battle Native Americans for land, while scholars compete to find dinosaur bones in Montana. Follow the adventures of Thad, a young American tracker, as he befriends Julian, the son of an English paleontologist, and together they uncover remarkable discoveries and witness historical events. With plenty of action to keep you engrossed, this book offers an unusual view of a fascinating era.


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The Bone Wars


An unusual view of a rich, violent period in the American West. The book “The Bone Wars” by Kathryn Lasky provides an in-depth look at an eventful period in American history. Set in the late 1800s, the story takes place during a time when the northern plains were embroiled in two separate conflicts: the settlers’ push to claim land from the Native Americans and the scholars’ competition to discover dinosaur bones in Montana. Through the eyes of the main characters, Thad and Julian, readers are taken on a thrilling journey filled with action and adventure.


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To understand the events that unfold in “The Bone Wars,” it is important to delve into the background of this period in American history. Taking place in the late 1800s, the American West was a tumultuous place with ongoing conflicts between different groups. The northern plains, in particular, were of great importance during this time, as they were home to both Native American communities and valuable resources, including dinosaur bones.

The Two Wars in the American West

“The Bone Wars” takes place during two major conflicts in the American West. The first conflict was between the settlers and the Native Americans. As the settlers pushed further westward, they clashed with Native American tribes over land ownership and resources. This conflict resulted in significant violence and had a profound impact on the Native American communities.

Simultaneously, there was another kind of war happening in the American West – a war among scholars for dinosaur bones. In Montana, various scholars and paleontologists competed fiercely to discover and claim dinosaur fossils, resulting in a rivalry now known as the Bone Wars. This competition often played out without scruples, leading to intense and sometimes unethical practices in the pursuit of scientific knowledge.


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The Settlers vs Native Americans

The conflict between the settlers and Native Americans was rooted in a variety of reasons. Land disputes and the desire for resources created tensions between these two groups. The settlers believed that the land was theirs for the taking, while the Native Americans saw the encroachment as a direct threat to their way of life. This clash of ideologies resulted in violent confrontations and had devastating consequences for Native American communities.

Prominent historical figures such as Buffalo Bill, General Custer, and Crazy Horse played significant roles in this conflict. Each with their own motivations and ambitions, these figures shaped the outcome of this war.

The Scholars and Dinosaur Bones

While the settlers and Native Americans waged their war, scholars and paleontologists pursued a different kind of battle in the American West. These individuals were driven by their passion for science and the desire to unearth and study dinosaur bones.

The search for dinosaur bones was not an easy task. Scholars had to employ various methods to locate and extract these fossils from the rugged and unforgiving landscape of Montana. They faced numerous challenges, including equipment limitations and harsh conditions. However, their persistence paid off, and the discovery of dinosaur bones had a profound impact on the scientific community, shedding light on prehistoric life and contributing to our understanding of Earth’s history.


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Thad and Julian: Friends and Adventurers

At the center of this thrilling tale are the characters Thad and Julian. Thad, an American tracker, and Julian, the son of an English paleontologist, form a unique friendship and embark on numerous adventures together.

Thad, with his skills and knowledge of the American West, becomes an invaluable asset to their expeditions. His expertise as a tracker allows the duo to navigate challenging terrains and find hidden treasures. Julian, on the other hand, brings his connection to his father, a respected paleontologist, and his knowledge of the scientific process.

Historical Figures

Throughout “The Bone Wars,” readers encounter prominent historical figures who played significant roles during this period. Thad finds himself involved in the Powder River Massacre, helping Black Elk rescue children amidst the chaos. He and Julian also bear witness to the infamous Battle of the Little Big Horn, providing a glimpse into the reality and consequences of these historical events.


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Action and Adventure

Action and adventure are at the core of “The Bone Wars.” Thad and Julian navigate treacherous landscapes, encounter dangerous antagonists, and discover extraordinary fossils. These thrilling and often perilous experiences keep readers on the edge of their seats, providing a unique perspective on this historical period.

One of the most significant discoveries made by Thad and Julian is unearthing the first triceratops skull. This groundbreaking find marks a pivotal moment in the field of paleontology and solidifies their place in history as talented and dedicated explorers.

Uneven Quality

While “The Bone Wars” is filled with action and excitement, it is worth mentioning that the book has some uneven quality. Certain scenes, such as the opening scene where Thad’s mother is murdered, may be beautifully written but unnecessarily melodramatic. Additionally, the sudden rise of uneducated Thad to responsibility and proficiency at the age of 14 stretches credibility. Nevertheless, the subject matter and compelling story are likely to captivate readers.


In the epilogue of “The Bone Wars,” readers catch a glimpse of Thad and Julian as aging, eminent paleontologists. The impact of their adventures and discoveries is seen in their achievements, which have contributed significantly to the field of paleontology. Their legacy lives on, inspiring future generations of scientists and explorers.

In conclusion, “The Bone Wars” offers a comprehensive and captivating perspective on a turbulent period in American history. Through the lens of Thad and Julian, readers witness the conflicts between settlers and Native Americans, as well as the intense competition among scholars for dinosaur bones. Action and adventure permeate the story, providing an exciting reading experience. While the book may have some uneven quality, its subject matter and storytelling make it a compelling read for history enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.