The setup of Mother Pig is pretty close to a typical quest fantasy - we’ve gotta go here to pick up this thing, then there for that thing, and meet up here, of course hopefully without dying along the way. However, Coal (and us as readers) are dropped in towards the middle of this quest, which personally I appreciated as it leaves less room for things to get repetitive, provides some backstory that we have to gradually piece together, and leaves Coal the fun prospect of joining up with a group that already knows one another. Not that this is quite the found family story you might be anticipating.
We already know Coal as a relatable main character with an excellent sense of humor, and I enjoyed getting to spend more time with him. In Mother Pig we get an additional point of view from the quiet and endearing bat Yurza who is impossible not to love. He’s observant, anxious, and usually out of his comfort zone, but it was wonderful to see him slowly gain confidence throughout the book. Each of the new characters that have been dumped into the mix are quite distinct, allowing for the development of interesting individual friendships (and enemyships) throughout the group.
I was surprised to find myself on edge throughout even some of the mundane parts of the story, but the problem with Riddle’s writing is that you never know if he’s describing a meal for the sake of describing the meal (and making me hungry even though I have no desire to eat wasps) or because something is gonna violently interrupt the meal. Riddle’s storytelling and Coal’s tendency to roll with the punches make this almost a casual read. But there are enough shocking interruptions that you never truly get comfortable.
I did come across a couple small gripes: sentences that seemed outside of our current POV and one scene that bothered me an unreasonable amount because the characters got absolutely filthy and then went straight to a hot tub without rinsing off first. Speaking of which, if you have an extreme aversion to slime, pus, or body horror (in the form of malformed creatures) you might wanna be careful with this one. There were a couple times I stopped to think “ugh that’s fucking gross,” a response I’m not particularly prone to.
I enjoyed the entire book, but what I found by far the most satisfying was the ending. This seems a strange thing to say for the middle book in a trilogy, but I was becoming a bit apprehensive that we were going to continue through all this questing and not actually get anywhere. That wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, but it would have made this a very in-between book that was leading me somewhere (did I mention the quest came with a bunch of clues for a puzzle I was trying to put together?) without actually arriving. Thankfully that’s not the case, there were several major events that took place, some of which surprised me, and a whole lot of resolution stuffed into the last 20 pages or so.
As always, I was impressed by Riddle’s imagination. Even with a rather familiar plot structure, the book didn’t feel like something I’d read before because the world isn’t something I’ve read before. And even with the satisfying ending, there’s a lot more I’m looking forward to finding out. (Could we get an explanation for Horace, pretty please?)
If you haven’t started the Houndstooth trilogy, I’m not sure why you’re reading a review for the second book, but really I’ve spoiled next to nothing about Flesh Eater so you should absolutely go pick it up. And if you already have and enjoyed it, then I can assure you Mother Pig is well worth your time too. (And hurry up because if you’re anything like me, the third book will be out before you know it.)
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.