The third book I am reviewing is Dirt, by C.C. Hogan. This book is the first of a fantasy series of the same name, which at this moment includes the stories Dirt, Bloody Dirt, The Fight for Dirt, Hope, and Yona and the Beast.
The story is set on a fictional and fantastical planet with the notably less-fantastic name Dirt. Considering that our own planet’s name is synonymous with the brown substance that plants grow in, this name is not as strange as it sounds. Dirt is inhabited by humans, dragons, and various fictional animal species invented by the author.
The story centers on Johnson Farthing, a young man who is among the poorest working-class folk of his hometown. When Farthing’s sister Rustina is abducted, Farthing gets a magician named Weasel to help him in his quest to rescue her, kicking off a journey that takes these and several other characters across several continents of dirt. This makes for a fun adventure, but in many respects our brave protagonist becomes overshadowed by the more dynamic characters who surround him. In fact, for a fairly long stretch he fades into the background while the spotlight is stolen the magician Weasel and the dragon Fren-Eirol. These two are excellent characters in their own right, but they become more interesting than the protagonist and the reader somewhat loses sight of the protagonist due to them. Weasel and Fren-Eirol’s story shines, yes, but in shining it dims the light of Farthing’s story.
The book had a quite clever balance between being grounded (heh heh heh) and being whimsical, which for the most part I appreciated. The balancing act offered its challenges though. A lot of the story, most notably the parts where the dragons were prominent, felt like it could have been geared toward young adults or even children. Alternatively, the characters swear quite casually (well, not a ton of swearing. They say “shit” several times, but that’s all) and there is an underlying threat of rape throughout the story, a threat which is frequently invoked to serve a reminder why rescuing Rustina is important. In some respects I feel like the book struggled to find its tone, but in other respects I appreciate the mixture of the two moods.
There were a fair number of typographical errors, not as much as it could be but still enough to be occasionally jarring. These errors tended to travel in herds: I noticed sets of two or three pages which had several errors (confusing “desert” and “dessert” or “rode” and “road”, for example) followed by long stretches of error-free pages, followed by another set of pages with frequent errors. Perhaps during the editing process these places were gone over when the author/editor was working late into the night while carrying the burden of exhaustion. I can sympathize, but the classes I had to take to get a bachelor’s degree in writing have irrevocably damaged me to the point that I can’t see a typo without physically cringing.
On the whole, it was a strong addition to the fantasy genre, and I wish the author the best. I will probably read others in the series at some point. At the moment I am occupied with God Emperor of Dune, and it will take a bit of time to finish.
Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: