Book Review: Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Posted December 1, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Terrier by Tamora PierceTerrier by Tamora Pierce
Series: ,
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Police Procedural
Published by Random House on October 24, 2006
Pages: 584
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, commonly known as "the Provost's Dogs," in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran "Dogs" and her fellow "puppies," Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it's also where Beka was born, and she's comfortable there.

Beka gets her wish. She's assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost's Dogs. They're tough, they're capable, and they're none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don't know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could - information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pigeons gather ... murmurs that are the words of the dead.

In this way, Beka learns of someone in the Lower City who has overturned the power structure of the underworld and is terrorizing its citizens into submission and silence. Beka's magical listening talent is the only way for the Provost's Dogs to find out the identity of this brutal new underlord, for the dead are beyond fear. And the ranks of the dead will be growing if the Dogs can't stop a crime wave the likes of which has never been seen. Luckily for the people of the Lower City, the new puppy is a true terrier!

Also by this author: Bloodhound, Mastiff, Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, Daja's Book, Briar's Book, Magic Steps, Street Magic, Cold Fire

First in the Beka Cooper fantasy series and revolving around an ancestress of George Cooper’s (from the Song of the Lioness series within the overall Tortall series). The focus is on Beka Cooper who has wanted to be a Dog since she was eight years old. The story is set in Corus, the capital city of Tortall.

My Take
It begins as it means to go on, as a series of journal-like entries from George Cooper’s mother in 406 H.E. in which she bemoans the depths to which she and her son have fallen and provides the opportunity to begin Beka’s story, as Mrs. Cooper strives to turn George’s thoughts from thieving. Journal entries from a few others pop up before it begins with Beka’s own journal entries.

It’s an interesting culture, the Dogs. They accept bribes, collect what we’d call the “Widows and Orphans Fund”, and don’t go after minnows. While a Dog can take a bribe and then ignore what s/he’s being bribed for, it’s best to follow through on the bribe. The policework they make up as they go.

I want that anti-stain charm.

As good as Tunstall and Goodwin are, they disabuse Beka of the righteousness she feels about those who are missing. It’s a lecture that hits Beka wrong. Our Beka doesn’t care that she can’t save everyone. She knows it’s not right to ignore what’s happening in their district simply because the people are poor.

Beka will learn the value of friendship, how it can be a substitute when family turns its back on you. She’ll also encounter an attraction for the forbidden. She’s seen too much of how men treat women and wants nothing to do with them, but then again, it’s tingly for Beka too, being around Rosto. He makes her peaches and other parts all perky. It’s phrasing that’s too cute and naive to be anyone but Beka, and Pierce does make you feel that attraction, lol.

“If he succeeds, the thieves will be harder to catch — but the common folk will have someone to turn to. That has to be better.”

It’s a homey sort of series with a determined and lovable Beka who somehow gathers a supportive group of friends from both sides of the law. She’s a believer in justice for all and single-minded about it applying to everyone.

Even as I kept reminding myself that Beka and Terrier is part of the Tortall story, my brain wasn’t buying it. There may be a slight connection to George (from the Song of the Lioness series), but there’s very little in Terrier that will make you feel it. It’s not to say that this isn’t a fun story. It is. And Pierce’s use of Dogs and Puppies will keep you giggling inside as you read.

The Story
It turns out that it was an eight-year-old girl who brought down the Bold Brass gang. One of ’em had took up with her ma and tossed her to the streets when he found out she was ill. That eight-year-old Dogged the man until she found his lair. Then she Dogged the Dogs until finally she accosted the Lord Provost himself who listened to her.

The Lord Provost did some Dogging of his own and now the Cooper family lives in his household.

Today, that eight-year-old is a Puppy-in-training and paired up with Tunstall and Goodwin who are too angry over being assigned a Puppy. They’ll change their tune when they discover who she’s friends with, for it’s that friend who’ll give them their next big cases.

The Characters
Rebakah “Beka” Cooper was an angry and Dogged eight-year-old; now she’s a very shy Puppy assigned to the Jane Street Kennel. The purple-eyed Pounce is the magical cat who attached himself to her; he claims he’s a constellation from the Divine Realms. Beka’s Birdies are real birds, pigeons, and Slapper seems to be the boss of them. Other birds include Pinky, White Spice, Fog, Ashes, Inky, and Mumper. The dust spinners Beka listens to include Hasfush, Shiaa, and Aveefa.

Ilony Cooper was Beka’s mother. Granny Fern is Beka’s paternal grandmother; it’s her son who had the Gift. Beka’s siblings: Diona is being trained up as a lady’s maid; Lorine is being taught the tricks of fine sewing and fine embroidery; Willes is learning the messenger trade; and, Nilo is to train horses. Two hundred years later, Eleni Cooper is a former priestess and George’s mother; George Cooper is her only son who was caught up for stealing.

Lord Gershom is the Lord Provost in charge of all the Dogs. Lady Teodorie is his wife, and she hates the Dogs, especially Beka. Jakorn is one of my lord’s private Guards and taught Beka to use a crossbow. Mya is the cook who has looked after the Cooper family since their cart rolled in; she’s married to Ulfrec Fane who’s the head footman, although she once dallied with Tunstall.

Jane Street Kennel…
…is in the Lower City, a rough district in Corus. Acton of Fenrigh is the watch commander. Kebibi Ahuda is the watch sergeant and the training master in combat. Fulk (the Nosepicker) is their mage on duty. Seems he has an over-quick hand to the mots. Sir Tullus is the Magistrate who rules on Evening Watch cases. The Lord High Magistrate will show up at the end.

Fellow Puppies include Ersken Westover, Verene, and the mischief-stirring Hilyard; Phelan is a second-year Dog who’s befriended them. Phelan’s partner handles a scent hound named Achoo. Alacia is a pretty Puppy who shouldn’t be flirting with noble sons.

Dogs, a.k.a., Guardsmen, include Senior Dog Matthias Tunstall (he likes to garden) and his partner, Corporal Clara “Clary” Goodwin, who are considered the best; Corporal Nyler Jewel and Yoav; Birch and Vinehall; Otelia and Rollo; Otterkin, another of the best Dogs of the Evening Watch, has a magical Gift and is partnered with Cape; Evermore; and, Springbrook.

Lady Sabine of Macayhill is a lady knight who needed a pardon from the king to come home. Joreth is one of her knight friends. Roger II is king of Tortall.

Ammon Lofts, a.k.a., Crookshank, is a slum landlord and the biggest of the Nightmarket scales. Annis Lofts is his daughter-in-law who was friends with Beka’s mother. Herun is Annis’ son and Crookshank’s grandson married to Tansy, Beka’s best friend. Rolond is their son who was kidnapped. Vrinday Kayu is the “maid” who accompanies Tansy to the market, the one with black teardrops tattooed on her face. Uta Norwood is Crookshank’s accountant. Zada is a maid in his house.

Jens is one of the guards with the well diggers. He hires out through Inman Poundridge.

Mistress Dierdry Noll is a fabulous baker and another friend of Beka’s. Yates is her son and helps in the bakery as do his two friends, Gunnar Espeksra and another. Gemma is her youngest daughter. Bis is also a baker where Beka gets her stale bread. Jungen Berryman is a mage for the Gem Merchants. Mother Cantwell is a canny old beggar and thief. Amaya Painter is a mage and Mistress Trout’s brother-in-law’s sister. Calum was her independent wee lad. Vonti is her husband, the man to whom she never told the truth. Orva is a violent woman, a horrible mother, and addicted to hotblood wine. Jack Ashmiller is the husband she’s been hitting. Esseny the Lily was a dancer who didn’t love him anymore.

Court of the Rogue
The Rogue is the king of the thieves, and Kayfer Deerborn is supposed to look out for the people of the Lower City. Ulsa is one of his chiefs; her district is Prettybone. Dawull holds the Waterfront District on both sides of the river.

Rosto the Piper is new in town and plays a pretty flute, and looks to topple the Rogue; he’ll hire on with Ulsa. The women with him are Koramin “Kora” Ingenstra, a mage (a mad child killer got her older sister), and Aniki Forfrysning, a swordswoman with an Anjel blade, one of Master Watson’s own forging, who’ll hire on with Dawull. All three of them move into Mistress Trout‘s lodging house in Nipcopper Close where Beka lives and a new tradition begins. Some of Aniki’s friends include Fiddlelad, Reed Katie, Lady Mae, and Bold Brian.

The Shadow Snake is a boogeyman used to frighten children, or so they thought.

Dogs are the law enforcement officials in Tortall and are divided into the lazy Day Watch, the energetic Evening Watch, and the slow, sullen, and lazy Night Watch. Puppies are the trainees. Kennels are the police stations. Cage Dogs handle the torture and the prisoners inside the jail. Dogs who are scent-handlers handle the dogs who can scent a trail. Happy Bags are bribes for the kennels the Dogs collect from the merchants and Rogue. It does go to pay for medicines, healers, and burials. Birdies are snitches for Dogs.

Pigeons are the Black God’s messengers and sometimes carry the ghosts of those who don’t want to go on to the Peaceful Realms. Dust spinners are clouds of spinning debris, usually dust from the streets who hear and retain whatever is said near them.

A filcher is a small-time criminal. A foist is a master pickpocket. Mots are women; gixies are girls. Coves are men. Rats can be criminals or simply inhabitants in the Cesspool, a bad neighborhood where Beka and her family used to live. They can also be a Dog’s prisoner. Rushers are thugs. A mumper is a beggar. Fire opals are fascinators, bewitchers. They’ll hold the attention of anyone a mage shows them to.

The Cover
The cover is metallic in its golds and coppers while pigeons flock around a spare-looking Beka in her tunic, trews, and boots, her baton clasped crosswise her hips, and her hair braided, standing on cobblestoned streets while dust spinners swirl about her.

The title is what Beka is like in pursuing suspects — she’s a regular Terrier.

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6 responses to “Book Review: Terrier by Tamora Pierce

  1. When I first saw this cover I thought that it was an Urban Fantasy, but on second glance it’s MG, and I still want to read it. That’s a first! I just love dogs, so the premise is right up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. You’re most welcome! It’s an odd perspective on dogs since they refer to the police force as dogs and puppies. A part of me gets slightly offended by it, but for the most part, it’s very apt. Think about how dogged a dog can be when he’s on the trail of something, lol. Pierce pulls in those traits about a terrier and applies them to Beka, and it’s perfect!

  3. You’re welcome. Part of why I review books is to help readers become aware of the joys (and pitfalls) of a book. I’m very grateful I’m a fast reader and so passionate about reading — I’m even more grateful to a great library system, lol!

    • I have always been a library person until I moved to another a state a few years back-I go there, but I just am not as comfortable here as I was back home. Besides, my e-reader is so full right now, I don’t know what to read first-even of the ones for review this month..

      • Oh, man, I hear ya. And I still can’t resist adding more! I’m trying to carve out some time to re-read the Outlander series, and I want to re-read the Lord of the Rings. Those new Hobbit movies are so bad that I want to immerse myself in the book!

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