Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Review: Dirt King (Houndstooth #3) by Travis M. Riddle


Dirt King (Houndstooth #3) by Travis M. Riddle
Independently Published
Publication Date: February 1st, 2022
Paperback/Ebook. 634 pages.

**You can find my reviews for the first and second books in the Houndstooth series here and here, respectively. Please note that although I will keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, there may be some minor spoilers for the previous books in the series in my review and the blurb below. 

About Dirt King:

"After unthinkable sacrifices, the Blighted have finally acquired all six ancient artifacts needed to re-seal the Houndstooth, keeping its dark energy at bay to save Ruska. 

But everything they were told was a lie. 

With Coal's newfound knowledge, they must now risk everything to reach the Dirt King's impenetrable Palace and attempt to undo centuries of turmoil that he has wrought upon the kingdom. If they fail, Ruska is doomed to wither away until only the Houndstooth itself is left. 

But the immortal king possesses all of their magical abilities and more, making him the most powerful person in the entire kingdom. Do Coal and the others have what it takes to stop him, or is this cycle destined to continue until Ruska crumbles?"

Dirt King is the final book in the highly original and endlessly entertaining Houndstooth series, and I am incredibly heartbroken to leave this world and these characters, but also ridiculously satisfied with how everything turned out in this thrilling, action-packed, and unforgettable ending. 

I always find it so difficult to write reviews for the final book in any series or trilogy–especially one that I've loved–because I sometimes wonder what I can say that's different from what I've already said because clearly it’s already a great story. Still, an ending is momentous and leaves us with a final impression of the series, and it can easily be messed up. Fortunately, in this case, I’m happy to say that Dirt King was a truly perfect ending and I couldn’t be happier with it. 

Dirt King picks up pretty much immediately after the events of Mother Pig–events which were pretty devastating and that I kept hoping wouldn’t stick (I won’t say what happened because there are some big spoilers, but just trust me). Still, I was excited to jump right back into the story and it felt like no time had passed since I finished the last book. I should also note that this was helped by Riddle’s wonderful inclusion of a “the story so far” section at the start of the book with a synopsis of the previous two books to make sure no detail was left unturned, which I always find immensely helpful. I wish more authors did this, and I’m glad so many are starting to! 

In Dirt King, we continue following Coal's POV, but much like in Mother Pig, we get one new POV to follow as well, which is that of Noswen. I really adored this chance to get to know Noswen on a deeper level, and I think having the opportunity to dive deeper into Noswen’s experiences really added a lot of depth to both her character and the story itself as we get to know more about the characters in this world. I’ve also appreciated how Riddle carefully chooses which POVs to feature in order to get the most well-rounded view of the events of the story and perspectives from different angles and groups. I would honestly love to get at least one POV chapter from every character because they all have such distinct personalities that I think it would bring a lot of great insight to the story–and to me, that just shows how well Riddle developed each character if it means I'm willing to read more from every other character. 

I really loved how Riddle handled the aftereffects and fall-out of some very momentous and intense events that occurred in Mother Pig and managed to put a clear amount of emphasis on it in a way that felt very realistic and effective. I think one of the things that I have most appreciated about this series and about this book in particular is that there is plenty of time taken to really explore different topics and situations that are often glossed over. People don’t tend to move on from intense experiences or huge responsibilities and obstacles in quick and easy ways, and Riddle manages to effectively capture many of the emotions involved in these circumstances, especially with showcasing how everyone reacts to things differently. Some people just want to forge ahead and keep doing whatever they’re doing and attack any big obstacles in front of them, others need a little more time to adjust and handle things more internally, and some people will just shut down and can’t keep going for a while. Each of the characters encapsulates these ideas and their individual reactions to different obstacles and events feel very authentic and realistic, and this is something that I have noticed in each book in this trilogy. 

On a lighter note, we as readers are once again treated to some truly delicious food descriptions, which I am still a huge fan of. For me, not only is the food fun to explore, but it’s also a big part of the world-building in that it helps readers see what sort of foods are popular and what different areas and cultures eat in this universe, which adds a great deal of character to the world. And speaking of the world itself, I loved that we got to explore even more areas than in the previous two books. This world has been so vast and colorful with so much going on in so many different areas and tons of unique societies and locales. 

The pacing of Dirt King remains very consistent with the pacing of the rest of the trilogy in the sense that it’s thoughtful and on the slower side, but not too slow and still includes plenty of more intense action scenes. In fact, I found that Dirt King had quite a lot of extended action scenes, so be ready for that. There are some pretty great battles in this book, if I'm being honest, and you won't want to miss them. The writing and pacing always leave me feeling very calm and content overall, though, and I think it’s just this sense of consistency and ability of the author to keep the story flowing in a very unhurried manner that still manages to convey urgency when needed that makes it feel so effortless and flowing.

Lastly, I just want to say that what has really drawn me in so much to this series is how much heart these books have. As I mentioned in a previous review, this is a pretty ragtag group that comes together and embarks on this momentous journey, people that likely wouldn’t have cross paths in life otherwise, and it’s really a fun and interesting experience to see how they play off of one another and develop some chemistry (or don’t, in some cases). These characters are all such individuals with their own hopes, goals, dreams, families, and lives, and I just really appreciated how Riddle developed all of that so well and made me feel so deeply connected to this story and these characters. 

Overall, I've of course given Dirt King five stars! I'm so bummed to see this series end, but I also am just glad I got to go on this journey with Coal, Noswen, Yurzu, Jatiri, and every single character that appears on the pages. I cannot wait to see what Travis M. Riddle has in story for us next.

*I received a copy of Dirt King in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon

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