Speculative evolution is the process of trying to deduce paths of evolution of species and ecosystems that have not occurred. It’s not a concept that a lot of people have heard about, but Raptors of Paradise shows just how intriguing the concept can be.

Set in an alternate version of Earth where dinosaurs have survived into modern times, the world that Jay Jay Burridge has created asks the question: What would the world look like if dinosaurs had a further 65 million years’ worth of evolution under their belts?

Some of Burridge’s suggestions are fantastic: the Tritop, a smaller cousin to the infamous Triceratops, is thought to be the first animal domesticated by early humans. And the Dwarf Black Tyrants (three guesses who they descend from!) have made a name for themselves with their fabulous fishing techniques.

These are just some of the facts that form the background to the story of Bea Kingsley, whose parents disappeared eleven years ago without a trace. And now her Grandmother, Bunty, has brought her on a highly unusual trip to a remote Indonesian island in the hopes of capturing a glimpse of the elusive Raptors of Paradise. Struck by the strangeness of it all, Bea starts asking questions and no one, including her grandmother, wants to answer. Trouble, though, seems to follow each of them. And so begins an adventure of a lifetime and a mystery as deep as the Indonesian jungle.

With echoes of James Gurney’s Dinotopia, this story weaves together the creative magic of the imagination with the fascination of an ancient world long lost to us. Beautiful black and white illustrations interspersed throughout book (and the option to download a free companion app!) lend the story a wonderful visual appeal, bringing this world closer to reality. The second book, The Stegosorcerer has not long been released, continuing this fantastic exploration of an alternate world.