Publication Date: October 24, 2006
Type: Paperback, gift
Tamora Pierce begins a new Tortall trilogy introducing Beka Cooper, an amazing young woman who lived 200 years before Pierce's popular Alanna character. For the first time, Pierce employs first-person narration in a novel, bringing readers even closer to a character that they will love for her unusual talents and tough personality.
Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, and she's been assigned to the Lower City. It's a tough beat that's about to get tougher, as Beka's limited ability to communicate with the dead clues her in to an underworld conspiracy. Someone close to Beka is using dark magic to profit from the Lower City's criminal enterprises--and the result is a crime wave the likes of which the Provost's Guard has never seen before.
This is my third time rereading Terrier. Some books, after a read or two, grow old. You enjoyed them the first time, but they're not ones you could pick up again with the same expectations. Terrier is not one of those books. Tamora Pierce's novels, period, are not those books. No matter how many times I reread them, I'm still stunned by the sheer flawlessness of her writing, her characters, and her world.
Tamora Pierce's books are, for lack of a better word, very . . . mature. By that, I do not mean they stray into the realm of Adult Fiction; they are still very firmly grounded in YA. In fact, I first read her books when I was nine and enjoyed them. But it's almost as if she is above the common tropes and pitfalls of YA; even when she uses something that might, in another book, seem cliche, she manages to make it into something so natural and perfect that you wonder why you ever questioned it in the first place. This isn't a book written for hormone-fueled teenagers to angst over; it's a book written from a teenage character's point of view, but it is rich and complex and not dumbed down in the slightest. It's the kind of YA book that people of any age can fall in love with.
One of the things that really sets Tamora Pierce apart from other fantasy authors, and other authors in general, is just how well she knows her world. She has written five series in this world, and she could write more, because it is so vast and detailed that the story possibilities are endless. When you read Tamora Pierce's books, you get the sense that this woman knows every last detail of every last country and city and neighborhood in this magical realm she's created. But the best part of this is that she doesn't burden you with the knowledge. She doesn't dump it all over your head. She simply slips you into her world and lets you discover for yourself. This is one of the many reasons that I've always loved Tamora Pierce's books, despite not being the greatest fan of high fantasy. Oftentimes, something that put me off other books of the same genre was the amount of world-building they attempted to do through telling. Perhaps they knew their world well, but they tried to show their reader just how much they knew this world within the span of a few pages. Tamora Pierce never does that. She gives brief histories when necessary, but for the most part, she lets you explore the world on your own.
This was Tamora Pierce's first foray into first person aside from a few short stories, and I have to say, it worked brilliantly. I love all of her books, so clearly she also excels at third person, but I think the first person, journal format was absolutely perfect for this book. It gave it both that detail and that sense of immediacy that a story like this really needed. And there's even a reasonable explanation for why Beka would be keeping such a detailed journal in the first place; she is practicing for when she must make full reports as a Dog. Like any realistic journal-keeper, she is not consistent in her length and detail; some days she is too tired or too frustrated to write, some days she simply glosses over because nothing important happened, and some days . . . well, one day she gets drunk and writes accordingly. I really appreciated these little touches.
I also appreciate that she gave them dialogue as would be fitting for those living in the scummy part of town in something akin to Medieval times. They had their own little vocabulary which is all perfectly understandable in context, but really helps to add that sense of realism. A huge pitfall for many authors setting their books in historical times, or historical times within a fantasy world, is accurate dialogue, but Tamora Pierce pulls it off wonderfully.
Despite the impeccable writing and world-building, however, where this book--and Tamora Pierce herself--truly shines is the characters. The characters are the best because they are so, so real. Every last one of them. She handles such a wide, lively cast of characters and manages to make each one unique, each one a real person with real hobbies and thoughts and opinions and flaws. I cannot think of a single side character in here that is not completely three-dimensional. I fell in love with those I was meant to fall in love with and hated those I was meant to hate, and then there were some who did terrible things but whom I couldn't quite hate because it was so easy to see why they would do what they'd done.
And Beka. Oh, Beka. I love her to death. I love every part of her. There are such a rare few main characters who never once get on my nerve throughout an entire book (much less a 590-page one), but Beka makes the cut. She is yet another of Pierce's "strong female heroines," but as with all the others, she does not fit the modern YA concept of a "strong female heroine." She is kickass at times, but she is not infallible; she is not flawless in her fighting, nor in her problem-solving. She is painfully shy, but not, as one often sees today, in a way that is meant to be endearing. She is not the awkward, quiet girl who meets a bold man that finds her shyness so damn adorable and sweet, etc. etc. She considers it a cripple, something that interferes with her ability to arrest Rats and report at the Magistrate's Court. However, despite her shyness, she doesn't simply let others walk all over her. When Rosto, the charming Rat who is constantly flirting with her and whom she's made very clear she will not get involved with, makes too bold of an advance, she doesn't fall into his arms or simply let it slide; she threatens to punch him (or mocks him for being "old," knowing it will sting his pride and turn him away).
I know many people may steer clear of this book because it is a high fantasy, or a mystery, or a "cop" book, or all of the above. If you are one of those people, I'd advise you to give it another look. Because I am not a fan of high fantasy or cop books, and I am not always crazy about mysteries, yet this book is among my favorites. Perhaps you'd enjoy it as much as I have.
In case I haven't already made it clear, this book gets a solid five stars.
Buuut wait! There's more! (totally did not just say that in a commercial voice . . . ) I love this book so much that I want to give others the chance to read it. Now, if I had only one copy, I'd be pretty tight-fisted, because I'm leery about giving away my favorites. However, I somehow ended up with not one, but two paperback copies of Terrier by Tamora Pierce. So I am giving away one of them to you, my lovely followers!
Simply enter the Rafflecopter form below.
(giveaway is for US only--I'm really sorry to all of you international followers, but I just don't have the money to ship anywhere else)
a Rafflecopter giveaway